Wallingford councilors to get wireless internet access after lengthy delay



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WALLINGFORD — Wireless internet is expected to be available inside the Town Hall for the first time for Tuesday’s Town Council meeting after supply chain shortages led to a lengthy delay in the necessary equipment arriving.

Town Network Administrator Chris Lucht said the installation should be complete in time for the meeting now that the wireless router and cabling has arrived. He said the project, which was included in the 2021 fiscal year budget that went into effect last June, was delayed due to backorders and the lowest bidder not being able to fulfill the town’s order.

“If this was pre-Covid it probably would have been done in a week or two,” he said.

The timeline for the installation has been questioned by councilors repeatedly in recent meetings. On June 14, Councilor Craig Fishbein asked what was causing the delay. While leafing through his documents for the meeting, he noted that he had printed out relevant memos from town staff, due to the inability of councilors to access documents digitally.

“I'm just trying to figure out what is going on here. We have been, for over a year now, represented that there’s going to be internet in these chambers and this is like pulling teeth,” Fishbein said — with Council Chair Vincent Cervoni interjecting that pulling teeth doesn’t take this long. “ … The update we got today contains a quote. Unfortunately the quote is dated today, so I don't know why or who’s been working on this.”

‘Nobody dropped the ball’

Lucht told the Record-Journal the order was placed as soon as possible, however, the same supply chain issues that have affected equipment orders across the economy have prevented suppliers from fulfilling the order.

“Nobody dropped the ball anywhere, everybody did things as quickly as they could,” he said.

During the April 26 council meeting, Department of Public Works Director Robert Baltramaitis said he’s worked with Frontier over the prior few months to have the cabling run to the building.

The installation required that Frontier run high speed internet service from roadside cabling to the building’s underground communications conduit. From there, town staff would run wiring across the first floor and up to the second floor, where the wireless router would be placed in the proximity of the council chambers.

The effort to install wifi in the Town Hall came out of a council subcommittee formed in 2014 to explore ways to advance the town’s use of technology. In 2017, the committee laid out its goals of wifi installation and putting town property records online, the latter of which was opposed by Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. due to privacy concerns. Commercial property records have since been made available online, however, residential properties are still only accessible by visiting the Town Hall.

Disconnect

There continued to be a disconnect between councilors wanting to expand the town’s use of digital technology and Dickinson’s skepticism of the online sphere during the June 14 meeting, as councilors pushed for the town to establish a social media presence.

Councilors Jason Zandri and Fishebein said creating social media pages for the municipal government or the police or fire departments would allow for information to be conveyed to the public more quickly and provide opportunities for community engagement.

“The ability for the Police Department to have a page on the Wallingford town website to put up press releases is something as opposed to nothing, but I believe what we’re missing here is, again, what a lot of the other towns do,” Zandri said. “If a road closed right now because someone hit a fire hydrant and they had to knock off two sections of the road, there’s no way to notify anybody of that in time. If they could put a post up on Facebook and say, ‘Right now this section of South Elm is closed because of a fire hydrant break,’ people would avoid the area.” 

Web page update

Dickinson said the prospect of posting photos of police officers engaged in community events could present security or privacy issues and that town social media pages could be impersonated, which he noted occurred in North Haven when a fake account claimed that the town wouldn’t be removing snow from town roads.

Rather than creating a social media page to distribute town information, Dickinson said it’s more effective for the town to utilize its government website. The town is currently overhauling the police department page on the town website to make it easier for it to release information to the public online.

“They’re working with Web Solutions for a revamped page, pages on our website. They have a presence on the town website as it is, that will be completely revised and they’re in the process of that,” Dickinson said. “ … There will be an appropriate presence for the police department and its ability to advise the public.”

Reporter Devin Leith-Yessian can be reached at dleithyessian@record-journal.com.



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