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Project could bring wireless

The water and sewer system could soon be wireless. That might mean future inception of a few wireless internet hotspots in and around Thomson.

At a Water and Sewer Commission meeting earlier this month, officials approved a study of what it would take to install Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) equipment that would electronically measure and monitor the system through wireless connections.

According to Thomson-McDuffie County Information Technology Director Kelly Evans, SCADA is strong enough to handle several functions, including wireless internet hotspots in the downtown Thomson area, Sweetwater Park and industrial parks.

"Telemetry is specifically for utilities. It is, in that the infrastructure required to manage it is the exact same infrastructure required to do wireless," Mrs. Evans said. "Once you set up that receiving end of it ... then you basically just have to figure out where you want to put your sending side."

Mrs. Evans has asked to couple the burying of the necessary fiber optic cables with the pending Transportation Enhancement Grant work on the downtown Thomson streetscape. She said providing wireless access could be an impetus for economic growth in the area.

Thomson City Administrator Bob Flanders agrees that considering the feasibility of the project is a definite even though nothing solid has been decided.

"Anything that you can do that gives you at least one more service or one more attraction is probably worth a try if it's not too cost prohibitive," Mr. Flanders said. "If we're able to accomplish this in the context of it not being a huge outlay of cash, then I would be for it."

Mrs. Evans said she is looking into the possibility of receiving grant funding to offset the cost of adding the internet connectivity to the system. She added that it was easier and more cost efficient to install all the components at once rather than come back and add on later.

"I don't know what we're going to do or how we're going to do it, but I do know that we've got a real opportunity," Mrs. Evans said.

The initial need for SCADA has been heightened of late due to the water line connection to Warren County. Currently, employees have to drive from site to site to monitor the system. As service expands, monitoring it all has become increasingly difficult.

Web posted on Wednesday, April 26, 2006

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