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A new Wi-Fi Internet access system at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center is working "extremely well," county commissioners were told Wednesday.

Events manager Kris Barnes said Peak Internet completed installation in the four main buildings - Willamette, Santiam, Calapooia and Cascade - in time for last week's Willamette Valley Ag Expo.

"The vendors were extremely pleased," Barnes said. "There were about 60 vendors online at any given time and the system worked without a hitch."

Barnes said the amount of metal and concrete in the buildings made it necessary to increase the number of access points.

The project cost about $41,000.

The next phase will include making the Internet accessible on the grassy common areas outside of the buildings and the final phase, expected to be completed in a couple months, will be the parking lot.

Barnes said the process started about three months ago.

"Internet access has been inadequate in the buildings since we opened," Barnes said. "Vendors want to be able to link up to their business websites during shows."

Expo Center marketing director Jan Taylor has already started selling advertising space on the Wi-Fi splash page - the page that comes up when a user is going online - Barnes said.

"I had vendors as well as commissioners from other counties tell me how great the new system worked," Commissioner Will Tucker said.

Expo Center manager Randy Porter told the commissioners income remains down the first four months of the new fiscal year, but part of that is due to the way events are paid for.

"It doesn't look pretty year to date, but I'm not concerned yet," Porter said. "It's just the way money comes in. We've gotten better at collecting money prior to the start of events."

July's income was off $11,000; August was off $25,000 and September was off $42,000 from the same time a year ago. October income was $71,402, up from $47,088.

The fair and expo center has an annual budget of about $800,000.

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