Tamaqua could have the first phase of its police video surveillance system up and running by the end of this summer. Council approved a proposal from Communication Systems, Inc. of Allentown to furnish and install phase one of the system, at a cost of approximately $92,000.
Ken Dunkelberger, a member of the video surveillance committee and technology coordinator for the Tamaqua Area School District, attended the meeting to explain what the first phase included. "This phase is to place the infrastructure. The key is getting great infrastructure together," he said. "The infrastructure will allow growth up to 10,000 cameras," he added. Initially, the Borough will install four cameras, along the main intersections along Broad Street. Dunkelberger also explained that private businesses or individuals would eventually be able to purchase cameras and link into the system, as well, however, they would need to negotiate the price with their own internet service providers. One camera could cost between $8,000 and $12,000.
Several members of council and some residents questioned whether it might be better to spread the cameras out through each of the wards. "We need to make sure the foundation is there," cautioned Dunkelberger, who also explained that line of sight to the home base was necessary for the signals to transmit properly. Once a hub is established, the Borough will be able to expand from there. "You have to have direct line of sight," he said. "If you don't have it, you have to build it and that could add cost."
"We're trying to get the most out of our money," said Police Chief David Mattson. "The committee had hoped that we would have several cameras that could be moved from place to place. We've had a hard time as a committee deciding what is fair and what would give us the good start we need. The bottom line is that we just can't take care of everyone."
The $92,000 is coming from a grant from the John E. Morgan foundation. There are additional funds from the foundation, as well as $200,000 that has been approved from the federal government through Congressman Tim Holden. Although the money has been preapproved, the borough must still go through the grant application process to receive that money. Council approved the grant application and hired Lori Odgen to prepare the grant, at a cost not to exceed $600.
Council also hired Odgen to prepare a COPS hiring recovery program grant, which could help fund additional police officers or at the very least, prevent staffing cuts. It was noted that at this time, there are no plans to hire additional officers or lay any off; however, as the borough starts working on the 2011 budget, things may change. "I think quite frankly, we're going to be in the same situation this year," said Mayor Christian Morrison. "We're faced with those police pension issues, we're faced with the rising costs of running the municipality. Did we choose not to layoff last year? Yes. But, that was part of the choice. We didn't layoff, we raised taxes. Could we be in that same situation? Yes." Council president Micah Gursky added that the borough could apply for it and if they did not meet the threshold, they would not be eligible to receive funding.