GARDINER — City officials are aiming to provide free Wi-Fi to the downtown area and Waterfront Park by this summer as a tool to draw more visitors and entice them to stay longer.

Nate Rudy, director of economic and community development for Gardiner, said offering wireless Internet in Waterfront Park is another investment the city plans to make to attract people to the public space.

The hope is that more people will visit the city by boat and dock at Waterfront Park, he said.

“Obviously, the goal of the park is for the community and the region to visit Gardiner and take advantage of it as an outdoor resource,” Rudy said. “In the modern era, an outside resource with Wi-Fi is that much more appealing.”

Gardiner is requesting separate quotes for the cost of providing wireless Internet to Waterfront Park and for a coverage area that also includes the downtown area, up to City Hall. Quotes are due May 27.

Anne Davis, director of library and information services for the city, said she spoke with Augusta officials to learn more about the Wi-Fi service they provide in their downtown district.

The service cost Augusta around $45,000 to set up 2009, according to David Barnard, associate technology administrator for Augusta.

Barnard said providing the service costs $600 a month — $300 for the network and $300 for customer support.

Augusta used proceeds from its downtown district tax increment financing, or TIF, to pay for the start-up costs. TIFs let municipalities reinvest property taxes paid on new development on infrastructure projects.

Davis said Gardiner budgeted this year to use general funds to pay for the service.

She said she expects Gardiner will go with a service that is less complex than Augusta’s, which lets businesses choose different bandwidth speeds.

“I think more people come to town expecting to have free wireless Internet connectivity,” Davis said. “I think it’s really great that Gardiner is reacting to that expectation.”

City Manager Scott Morelli said he’s excited about getting Wi-Fi to the waterfront and downtown area.

“It’s something all communities need today and will be another tool to help get people to our community,” he said via email.

Morelli also encouraged people to attend Wednesday night’s City Council meeting to voice their opinions about the proposed budget for next year. He is proposing taking $175,000 from the city’s fund balance to prevent the budget from increasing the tax rate for residents.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]