First phase of network study looks likely to be funded

The Northampton City Council is in the midst of debating the city’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget, which starts July 1. Part one was last night. Part two is tonight. The budget is comprehensive, so it includes funding for all the city’s departments and initiatives. The City Council can remove any proposed funding in the budget with a majority vote.

We attended yesterday’s meeting to push the case for a municipal network again so you didn’t have to. Before we were allowed to speak, we had to listen to two and a half hours of reports from city departments, questions on these budgets from city councilors and questions from the public. It was clear that the City Council is getting heavily pressured to increases wages, principally for school teachers and employees.

The last budget, City Services, was presented by Director David Pomerantz, and finally gave us the opportunity to chime in during public comments. Mark Hamill delivered a short statement for the coalition:

Hi. I’m Mark Hamill and a founding member of the Northampton High-speed Community Network Coalition. Back in February, you approved the mayor’s capital plan, which added funding over the next two fiscal years to study the viability of a municipal network for Northampton.
Our understanding is that funding the first phase of this study is part of the Fiscal Year 2020 budget that you are considering tonight. We urge you to approve the budget with this funding, and once approved we hope that the mayor can begin this study promptly.
Our city’s demographics project a rapidly aging population. To maintain its level of services Northampton will need to attract entrepreneurs and businesses. By lowering the costs of doing business online in Northampton, a Northampton municipal network will be a key step to accomplish this goal.
Thank you for listening.

After the meeting, we met briefly with Mayor David Narkewicz. We thanked him for adding funding for the study and said we appreciated his efforts to fund the study. The mayor thanked us for coming and said he is willing to work with the coalition. That sounds good to us. So far we haven’t been able to pin him down how we can best help this effort.

Tonight, coalition member (and Ward 7 councilor candidate) Penny Geis plans to speak as well on this topic. We are very interested in seeing this study move forward as quickly as possible.

If you have time, come to the City Council’s meeting tonight and offer your support too for this initiative. The agenda is here.

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