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New London blinks for now on new downtown cameras

New London - Too many unanswered questions about costs have doomed, for the time being, a request to appropriate $300,000 for a new surveillance camera system in the city.

Instead of voting on the full $300,000 proposal, the City Council's Finance Committee on Monday voted 2-1 to forward to the full council a $17,500 request to allow Omni Data Solutions to begin a study of the city and determine actual costs.

Deputy Police Chief Peter Reichard, in a project backed by Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, had worked for several months to explore options and visit other municipalities that have systems in place.

Instead of sending out a costly request for proposals and entering into a bidding process, Finance Director Jeffrey Smith had recommended piggy-backing off other contracts that Omni Data had entered into with other cities, such as Manchester and Bridgeport.

Reichard said a system of about 40 cameras would cover most of the downtown area with Internet-based cameras and later, in phases, include connections to the schools and municipal buildings.

He likened the system in place since 2004, with 14 cameras, to a older generation VHS system compared to new technology.

But several council members said they were uncomfortable with the unknown costs of maintenance, regular replacement costs and other unknowns. One example of an unknown cost was replacement of incandescent lighting with LED lights in some areas to allow the cameras to capture video at night.

The system would be monitored by emergency dispatchers, but since that is not their only job, Reichard said that in many cases the cameras would be used to look back at occurrences rather than reacting to what was happening live.

Councilor Anthony Nolan asked "how did we come up with $300,000 if we don't know what we're going to be getting yet."

"I was under the impression we were looking for $300,000 to do this project," Nolan said.

Smith said final costs were an unknown but, "we really need approval as a way to pay people to move forward."

Councilor Erica Richardson and Council President Wade Hyslop voted in favor of moving the request to the full council. Councilor Michael Passero said while he was not opposed in concept to the idea, there were too many other outstanding projects that had yet to be funded.

"I share some of Councilor Nolan's concerns about committing money not knowing what we're committing to," he said. "What are we sacrificing to move this forward now? I really need to know if we're in a position to afford it. I don't want to be in a position where I'm favoring this over staffing."

Discussion on cameras preceded an administrative committee meeting on a proposed ordinance that would require a minimum staffing level of 80 officers at the police department.

Discussion on that matter continued later in the evening.


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