MANSFIELD -- Mansfield City Council on Wednesday approved the three-year lease of a mobile security camera system for city police, a piece of equipment Chief Keith Porch said was a "force multiplier" for his department.
Council voted unanimously to lease the system from LiveView Technologies, a company based in Orem, Utah, at an amount not to exceed $70,200 annually.
The city will pay for the lease through American Rescue Plan Act dollars, using about $210,000 from the $5 million set aside as revenue replacement by council a month ago.
The system, which can extend 22 feet into the air, is identical to the equipment the Richland County Sheriff's Department leased for one year back in August.
In fact, the MPD has been using the sheriff's system in recent weeks to assist with security issues in Central Park related to an ongoing homeless issues.
Porch told City Council the trailer-based system can be set up in many different locations. The city tested the system for 60 days during the summer, for example, along Park Avenue West to help monitor traffic and nuisance concerns.
"Everyone is aware of our personnel issues and this would be a force multiplier for us," Porch said. "Our supervisors would be able to remote into these cameras to check on the area we are looking at and then send resources there as issues may pop up.
"Citizens thought, through social media, these were speed cameras (along Park Avenue), which was fine, because it did achieve our objectives," Porch said.
"Now, it's important to know, and I want council and citizens to know, that this is not a surveillance camera. This is an overt camera system, meaning that it clearly has strobe lights, that there is no secret what that camera's there for and its purpose," the chief said.
Porch said the system can be used in a variety of locations and for multiple things, especially in areas where large crowds are expected. It has thermal imaging capability built into it. The system also has speakers that can used to announce messages to the public in the area.
Also on Tuesday, as expected, City Council approved the transfer of the former Ocie Hill Neighborhood Center to the Richland County Land Bank.
The move would facilitate the expected demolition of the century-old building at 445 Bowman St. on the city's north end, clearing the way for potential re-development of the site. The Land Bank to accept the property during its meeting Nov. 17.
More than a year after the building was closed by the city, nothing has been done with the century-old former school and neighborhood center, which became the target of vandals this summer.
In response to a question from 4th Ward council representative Alomar Davenport, whose ward includes the property, Mayor Tim Theaker said the property would remain with the city if the Land Bank opts not to accept it.
Also on Tuesday, City Council:
-- voted to on a change a city ordinance concerning hunting and trapping in the city, which was discussed at length during its Oct. 19 meeting. The vote came after the city's legal advisors told council the change does not prohibit residents from killing mice, rats or other nuisance animals on their own property. The ordinance does allow residents to hire licensed, commercial nuisance wild animal control officers to trap and take away larger critters, such as raccoons, skunks and possums.
-- discussed during caucus an administration proposal to put a 0.25% income tax levy on the 2022 primary ballot to pay for a new, $8 million public swimming pool/aquatic facility at Liberty Park and to improve the parks system. Parks & Recreation Supt. Mark Abrams told council the funds could only be used for capital improvement and maintenance in the parks, not for personnel. He said plans for the money include security cameras and improve lighting in the parks.
-- discussed during caucus the city administration's proposed temporary financial budget for 2022, which must be approved by Dec. 31. A final budget then must be approved by the end of March. 3rd Ward council representative Jon Van Harlingen told council that Finance Director Linn Steward would attend the next council meeting on Nov. 16 to discuss the budget.
-- voted to appropriate $3,000 from the Downtown Improvement Fund to purchase a live Christmas tree, lights and decoration for Richland Carrousel Park during the upcoming holiday season.
-- unanimously rejected a proposed rezoning request for two parcels on Orange Street that had been requested by the Land Bank. The vote came after 6th Ward council representative Kimberly Moton, whose ward includes the property, told council that a neighbor had purchased the property from the Land Bank in October and plans to convert it into a garden area. It will remain zoned for residential use.
-- voted to accept the donation of trees, shrubs and mulch from the Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development that was used during the linear "pop-up park" along Third Street in September and October.
-- discussed during caucus a Fair Housing Services contract with the Richland County Board of Commissioners and the Richland County Regional Planning Commission.