New tech incubator coming to Vidalia

Published 12:01 am Monday, September 8, 2014

VIDALIA — The former Vidalia City Hall should be demolished in the next 60 to 90 days as the city moves to install a new technology incubator as part of its wider broadband initiative.

Mayor Hyram Copeland said the city is getting quotes for the demolition of the Spruce Street building, which the city government abandoned because of a serious mold infestation and has since replaced with a new municipal complex on the west end of town.

“We already have the design for the new building, so construction can start soon after it is torn down,” Copeland said.

Email newsletter signup

The roughly 6,000-square foot structure is being funded by a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The building will house broadband infrastructure, which will be the hub for the high-speed fiber optic Internet access that will be spread across the city. The fiber will offer up to 1 gigabyte per second to city residents, businesses, schools and hospitals.

In addition to housing broadband infrastructure, the building will be used to house startup and emerging businesses.

“I feel like within 12 months, we should have broadband connectivity to Vidalia,” Copeland said. “Our objective is to go down Carter Street to connect our businesses first, with the schools, city hall. Then, we’re going to run it to the new industrial park and then we will spiderweb to the residential areas. I estimate in 3-5 years, it will be throughout Vidalia.”

Before that can happen, though, the city has one significant hurdle to jump — the Mississippi River. To get the necessary connectivity to Vidalia, the city would have to run conduit from the Mississippi side of the U.S. 84 bridge to Vidalia.

Mississippi Department of Transportation Executive Director Melinda McGrath, whose department oversees the bridge’s maintenance, said the state’s policies don’t allow for utilities to be placed on bridges.

“Myself and other officials have met with the mayor of Vidalia and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, and we are working to find a solution,” McGrath said.

Copeland said he believes a solution will ultimately be found.

“It is our future, the internet broadband initiative,” he said. “It is imperative that we as a community keep up with technology as it develops.”