YOUR HOMETOWN — Shenandoah: Town-Owned Print Shop Proves Popular

With Expanding Roster Of Services, Shenandoah Fills A Need With Community Computer Center

Posted: February 14, 2013

Retiree Bob Zirkle uses one of the center’s computers Monday morning. Zirkle says he uses the center’s Internet service to keep in touch with his son in St. Louis and to browse the Web. “At a dollar a month, that’s a pretty good deal,” he said. Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R.
Joyce Fluharty, supervisor and IT specialist at the town’s Community Computer Center, also serves as administrative assistant at the Shenandoah Police Department. Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R.
SHENANDOAH — By continually adding services, the Shenandoah Computer Center has grown from a simple computer lab to a full-fledged print shop and learning center. Unlike a private business, however, the center is owned and operated by the town.

Located just below the Shenandoah Police Department at 411 Second St., the computer center fills the voids created by a library that is only open three days a week and the 25 or so miles between Shenandoah and the nearest print shop.

“You don’t have to drive 20 to 30 miles to get something done,” said Joyce Fluharty, the center’s supervisor and IT specialist.

The center provided only basic computer services when it opened in 2005 through a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant offered to communities. Through the grant, the center offered unlimited free high-speed Internet and some computer classes.

When the grant lapsed in 2007, the town began to subsidize the center. Shenandoah now budgets $26,000 annually for the service.

“The computer center would not be what it is today without the full support of Mayor Clinton Lucas and the Town Council members,” Fluharty said. “They have always supported the computer center.”

The town “felt there was a need,” Fluharty said, so the center remained, though it did start charging patrons for certain services so it could help support itself.

People can now pay $12 per year or $1 a month for unlimited Internet access.

“You can come in here and sit every day all day, as long as we’re open,” Fluharty said.

“At a dollar a month, that’s a pretty good deal,” said Bob Zirkle, a regular center user.

Zirkle, 63, got rid of his home Internet service when he retired from Merck in November 2011. He now visits the center about twice a day to browse the Internet, keep in contact with his son who lives in St. Louis and to check up on his retirement account.

“I’m only a block and a half, two blocks [away],” Zirkle said, adding that he has taken advantage of many of the center’s inexpensive services.   

To support itself, the computer center has regularly added services, including photo printing, scanning, faxing, bookbinding and armchair genealogy research.

“With adding all the services we did, we’ve got a lot of repeat business,” Fluharty said. “I believe that’s why we’re still here.”

The center prints greeting and business cards, as well as brochures for the town and for candidates running for office. Fluharty also repairs antique photos and converts videotape to DVD.

The extensive printing operation draws inevitable comparison to the former Kinko’s chain, which was absorbed by FedEx and became FedEx Office.

“That was my idea to begin with,” Fluharty said. “We’re doing everything but shipping packages …  plus a little bit more because we’re classroom-oriented, too.”

The courses, taught by volunteers, include computer basics — using Microsoft Word, Excel, the Internet and email — and more advanced topics, including Internet security, writing html code and introductions to programming and graphic design. Fluharty also teaches a genealogy workshop.
When the Genie Co. plant closed last year, the center provided a valuable resource to those who lost their jobs, Zirkle said.  

Many of those people, who previously worked for Genie, which makes garage door openers, took classes at the center so they could use computers to apply online.

“They wanted to learn how to do that,” he said. “Most of them had never even turned on a computer.”

Zirkle encouraged others who have never used a computer to visit the center and take advantage of its resources, especially the classes.  

“A lot of people are scared of the Internet; if you just lay your hands on it, you’ll be OK,” he said. “You can’t mess it up.”

Zirkle lauded Fluharty, who is also the Stanley Police Department’s administrative assistant, and Betty Knowles, who works part time, for their willingness to help. The two women are the center’s only paid employees.

“They’re getting calls all day long, for faxes and copying,” he said. “They’re just here, there and everywhere. …  I don’t know a thing they wouldn’t help you with. They really go out of their way.”

Contact Alex Rohr at 574-6293 or arohr@dnronline.com



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