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Price kills idea of Lathrop park Wi-Fi

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POSTED December 25, 2013 9:13 p.m.

LATHROP – It seemed like such a great idea.

On a bright, sunny day you grab your kids and a blanket and your iPad and head down to your neighborhood park and spend the afternoon watching a movie on Netflix while the kids frolic away on the playground.

It’s almost like a modern-age Norman Rockwell painting.

But at the end of the day, the $267,000 price tag – not to mention the $10,000 in annual expenses – to put Wi-Fi in some of Lathrop’s more popular parks was too much for the city council to approve.

Several months ago Vice Mayor Omar Ornelas brought up the idea that the city could blanket its parks with Wi-Fi transmitters that would make it possible for people to stay connected when they were out enjoying the open space that the community has to offer.

The only problem? That would have cost significantly more than the trimmed down proposal that sat before the council Monday night.

Even then, not even Ornleas could justify spending a quarter of a million dollars just so Facebook updates could come through in real-time.

And some of his colleagues definitely didn’t approve of the concept.

“We need to look at, when we’re spending money, is it something that we need or is it something that we’d like?” councilman Steve Dresser asked. “When you go out there and get something and hope that somebody is going to pick up the tab later – I think there is something wrong with that. I think that there is a lesson to be learned in there.”

Part of Dresser’s argument centered around the fact that the city has more than 250 registered sex offenders, and offering unrestricted wireless access in public places might not be the safest idea.

He also spelled out a laundry list of capital improvement projects that could be better served with the money that would have gone towards the Wi-Fi project – everything from parks maintenance and graffiti removal to street light repair and the construction of a restroom at the dog park.

The funding would have come out of Lathrop’s general fund reserves.

But the fact that Dresser talked to 72 people and found that only four were in favor of the project didn’t seem to weigh on Councilman Paul Akinjo, who recognized the proposal as a way to move the city forward with the changing technological times.

If it was purely a monetary reason not to vote for the issue, he said, he could back it. Anything else would have been a detriment to the residents of the community.

“Is it the cost or the backwardness of it?” Akinjo asked. “If it’s the cost then fine – we can shelve it. But to say that the citizens of Lathrop don’t deserve wireless, I think, is taking a backwards attitude towards advancement.

“There is no going backwards in this country – this country is never going back to the olden days. And we need to accept that.”

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