Wilson honors Howard, mulls Greenlight ruling

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A full audience attended the Thursday night Wilson City Council meeting as several locals were honored and development projects got stamps of approval.

Many residents gave a standing ovation to celebrate centenarian Sallie B. Howard, who had a portion of Samuel Street renamed in her honor near her namesake charter school. Wilson Mayor C. Bruce Rose listed many accomplishments of the former educator, author and philanthropist before Howard spoke to the crowd.

“Every day I try my best to do something to make someone else happy,” she said. “...You don’t just live for yourself, but you live for others, including children, because they take after you.”

Rose then proclaimed Aug. 18 as Jesse Raudales Day after the Wilson-based artist whose piece was selected as part of the 2006 Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. Raudales then presented Rose and the city with a print of the piece that was selected, “Peace for the Children of the World.”

Wilson Downtown Development Manager Kimberly Van Dyk was joined by an assortment of volunteers and staff to announce the reaccreditation of Wilson as a National Main Street Community.

“All the staff and volunteers work very hard every day to revitalize historic downtown Wilson,” she said.

Also at the meeting, the Freeman Place development took a leap forward as officials approved an agreement with Builders of Hope to utilize new floor plans to construct affordable three-bedroom homes in the neighborhood. Builders of Hope director of real estate Karla Campbell said the Thursday night action is one part of a multi-step effort to increase the development of Freeman Place, adding that construction is likely to start within three months and take about four months for each lot.

“Builders of Hope is excited about the new partnership with the city of Wilson and we’re looking forward to getting construction started,” she said.

There were two public hearings during the meeting — to include a grant application for the redevelopment of 309 Nash St. and an annexation petition of 3536 N.C. 42 West — that did not spur any comments from residents before approval.

Greenlight ruling REVIEWED

City Manager Grant Goings took some time during the meeting, though it wasn’t on the agenda, to explain a recent court ruling that affected the expansion of Greenlight Community Broadband.

“(The case) wasn’t about the merits of the North Carolina law. In fact, the court had some comments about the law that were not very favorable, but the case being heard was about whether the FCC had the authority to overturn state law,” Goings said. “The decision wasn’t pro or con Greenlight or about whether the state law was good or bad, but about the FCC’s authority.”

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals announced the ruling on Aug. 10 that effectively halted Greenlight service beyond the Wilson County borders into Pinetops, but Goings said the fate of those customers’ broadband is up in the air until the Federal Communications Commission decides whether or not to appeal the decision.

Since the federal agency was a plaintiff, the brunt of the legal costs were borne by the FCC. Officials said roughly $80,000 from the Greenlight enterprise fund was spent in the appeals process. Goings said city staff is staying abreast of the case and will notify residents as it progresses.

The city has received a myriad of inquiries from Wilson County residents who do not have access to Greenlight, questioning why a small town in Edgecombe County was connected before all Wilsonians. Goings said prior to the legislation, Pinetops funded a feasibility study regarding Greenlight expansion into the town.

“When building fiber optic systems, the cost is in a per-mile basis,” he said. “That cost is relatively similar whether there are two houses or 22 houses on that mile.”

Since Pinetops has been a Wilson Energy customer for many years, the cost of expanding to the town coincided with electric upgrades to the town. About 200 Pinetops residents quickly signed up for Greenlight and more were on a waiting list that further justified the expansion.

Goings said the current footprint of Greenlight was paid for with borrowed funds and officials have opted to limit growth in the immediate future to areas able to be funded in the current budget. Despite many residents eager to join Greenlight throughout the county, Goings said connecting to customers not served by Wilson Energy is complicated because agreements to attach to poles owned by Duke Progress Energy or Dominion Power is necessary.

“Ten years ago, we wondered if anyone would want this service and if we would have enough customers to support it, but now we have a widespread demand we’re struggling to serve,” Goings said.

bhandgraaf@wilsontimes.com | 265-7821