City may add digital information kiosks

Published 9:03 am Tuesday, April 18, 2023

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19Topics on this year’s agenda included potential human resource policy changes, updates from the police department, planning & zoning, tourism, parks and discussion on funding requests.

Ongoing projects were also discussed including the Nutwood Winery expansion and digital kiosks.

The city also discussed a request from the Board of Elections and Registration on behalf of the Troup County School System to move voting precincts out of schools.

In the following days, The LaGrange Daily News will highlight and provide more information on topics discussed at the retreat.

On the first night, the council discussed a project headed by Communications Manager Katie Van Schoor to potentially place digital informational kiosks around the city.

The project was originally envisioned by Councilman Quay Boddie, though in a much simpler format. Boddie approached City Manager Meg Kelsey earlier this year about putting up a community bulletin board to inform residents about city and community events. Kelsey then took the idea a step forward and suggested digital bulletin boards.

Rather than standard push-pin bulletin boards with flyers, Kelsey envisioned digital kiosks that could interact with passersby, provide navigation and have community event updates sent digitally through the internet.

The city initially looked at Ike, a company that provides kiosks free of charge, which is paid for with digital ads. Van Schoor said the interactive kiosks are currently being used in Atlanta and other large cities. They have all the capabilities that the city would want and more, however, Ike is not currently looking to place their kiosks outside of cities much larger than LaGrange.

Another option are the kiosks currently in use by Columbus. Van Schoor said that the City of Columbus has 20 kiosks through their parks and rec department that function similarly to what LaGrange would like to do.

Columbus calls them their City Resource Centers. The devices are basically computers that run a basic program with a landing website that provides valuable information about employment, housing, transportation, elections, health, medical, legal and food resources.

The city’s IT Department said they could create similar devices at minimal cost, basically the cost of the computer.

The city could also purchase all-weather touchscreen kiosks at a cost of $12,209 each. The kiosks are significantly more expensive, but they have the option of being placed outside. The kiosks have 32-inch or 55-inch touchscreen monitors with vandal-proof glass.

With this option, the devices would belong to the city, and they would not have to do outside advertising. If the city does choose to have advertisements on the kiosks, the city would get 100 percent of the revenue.

A company that provides solar-powered digital signs was discussed as a third option. Soofa provides wireless solar-powered signs that allow for city communication and wayfinding.

The devices are more of a sign than a kiosk as they do not have touchscreens and are not interactive.

They are also expensive with a $12,500 upfront cost, with a requirement to purchase at least three units. The price drops to $10,000 if ten are purchased, but they also come with an annual fee of $2,000 after the first year. Soofa would also control advertisements and take an 80% cut on ad revenue.

If the city goes with the simple computer option, they could need to be placed inside at locations such as the Griggs Center or the LaGrange Memorial Library. The outside kiosk options could be placed in neighborhood parks, LaFayette Square or targeted to specific communities that need them.

Councilman Nathan Gaskin suggested that the kiosks could be used to allow residents to pay their utility bills or visitors to purchase tickets to Sweetland Amphitheatre.

Kelsey said she is most concerned about who will maintain the back end of the kiosks and keep them updated.

“We need to figure out how to regulate content and advertising,” Kelsey said. “There’s going to need to be rules and regulations in place and policies in place so that when people want to use that we can say this is what we’re going to put on that board, so that it’s very clear to the public.”