Claremont to offer free wireless access

Downtown Claremont will be wireless friendly in 2012, an Internet upgrade city officials say will benefit residents and help retain and attract business.

City officials are hoping to offer a free, wireless hot-spot in Claremont’s downtown area by late January to early February 2012.

City Manager Doug Barrick said the tech upgrade will cost the city about $3,500 and provide free wireless access to all downtown businesses.

“The main goal is, ‘What can we do to attract business as well as help and retain people downtown?’” Barrick said. “The idea is to increase foot traffic and keep people in our downtown area longer.”

The city ordered the wireless equipment last week and hopes to get it up and running by early next year, Barrick said.

In the system, Claremont City Hall will act as the main hub for the wireless network and house the main transmitter. Six “repeater-style” antennas will be strategically located throughout the city to boost the wireless signal, Barrick said.

“They will be boosting the distance out. The (transmission) happens so fast that you are not going to see any reduction of speed,” Barrick said.

Barrick said the network will have a filter that blocks access to inappropriate sites.

“Parents don’t have to worry about their kids getting on it and looking at inappropriate material,” he said.

Credit/debit transactions
Claremont will also start allowing residents to pay water and sewer bills through credit and debit transactions in 2012.

Residents will be allowed to pay their bills with Visa, MasterCard and Discover cards. The transactions must take place at City Hall, and Claremont will not accept telephone or automatic drafts, Barrick said.

The city will absorb a small additional cost for the upgrade, so the transactions will not cost residents anything extra.

“We’re excited about it and have had some good comments from our customers about it,” Barrick said, adding that the merchant service is through BB&T. “They gave us the machine for free and cut us a really good deal. We are able to offer it to the customer at no cost.”

In the future, Claremont will look to offer online bill-pay already offered at other area municipalities. Barrick said the city is evaluating the options of electronic bill-pay systems that can sometimes add expensive transaction charges up to $4.

Barrick said the city has received quotes of $3.60 for transaction charges for electronic bills.

“That’s a hefty price to tack onto a water and sewer bill for that convenience,” he said, adding that the city will continue to evaluate different options.