LaGrange discusses digital bulletin boards

Published 8:00 am Friday, March 17, 2023

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During the LaGrange City Council work session on Tuesday, the city discussed potentially placing digital bulletin boards around town to inform citizens of things going on around town, job openings and to help visitors navigate the city.

City Manager Meg Kelsey said the idea for the boards came from a recent town hall meeting hosted by Councilman Leon Childs. At the meeting, there was some discussion among citizens that they didn’t know some of the things happening around LaGrange, which was brought to her attention by Councilman Quay Boddie.

Kelsey said Boddie had initially approached her about building a traditional bulletin board, but she thought digital ones might be better.

“She thought it would be cool to do something digital. I was thinking old-school like some you would see at a national park or something like that, but Meg thought it would be digital,” Boddie said.

Communications Manager Katie Van Schoor said most of the messaging they do is through social media, but they are always looking for better ways to communicate.

Social media and emails are her go-to ways to communicate but not everyone uses the internet, Van Schoor said.

“I try everything I can think of. I sent City of LaGrange newsletters in utility bills. I spent a lot of money on that before I realized that a lot of people just throw out their utility bills,” she said.

“How can you get people to know things when you’ve got people who are 90 years old who don’t even have the internet and you’ve got 18-year-olds who won’t even look at a piece of paper,” Van Schoor said.

Van Schoor said when the idea of a digital bulletin board came up they began looking at IKE, a company that provides interactive digital kiosks in large cities. The kiosks provide informational items and wayfinding for the city and in turn, the kiosks pay for themselves with advertisements.

The kiosks are usually on city sidewalks and in public spaces to provide information to passersby. The IKE Smart City kiosks provide information, free Wi-Fi and navigation in exchange for being able to display advertisements.

“It’s a self-sustaining business model, requiring no investment from cities and taxpayers,” Van Schoor said.

“We would only get 20% of the available time on the kiosk. Advertisement accounts for 80% of it,” City Planner Mark Kostial said. “I think that that number may or may not be reasonable, but they’ve said their cost is about $110,000 per kiosk. which we would not have to pay.”

Kelsey said she has priced other kiosks, which range from $8,000 – $12,000 if the city doesn’t want to go through the company. The IKE kiosks might not be an option anyway as currently they are only in a few large cities right now.

Kelsey said they still have more work to do to see if the kiosks are viable, but she wanted to let the council know about the idea.