Willmar City Council accepts almost $50K in federal grant funding for public security cameras
WILLMAR -- The Willmar Police Department and Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office will use a $48,394 federal grant to buy and install security cameras in public places to protect public infrastructure from criminal activity.
The county will receive two cameras and the city from seven to eight cameras under the Safe Neighborhoods Enhanced by Video Technology grant.
The grant application was submitted by the city and county in April and approved by the Department of Justice.
Police Chief Jim Kulset and city staff requested the City Council accept the grant, and the council voted 3-2 Monday night to approve the request. Voting in favor were Jim Dokken, Rick Fagerlie and Steve Ahmann. Voting against were Ron Christianson and Tim Johnson. Council members Bruce DeBlieck, Doug Reese and Denis Anderson were excused.
Approval of the request was also recommended by the Public Works/Safety Committee. But committee vice chairman Christianson, reporting instead of committee chair Reese, said he was hesitant to introduce the resolution of acceptance. The resolution was instead introduced by Fagerlie and seconded by Dokken.
"I think we should have the full council discuss this,'' Christianson said. He asked where the cameras will be placed.
Kulset said the cameras would be placed in public areas experiencing chronic criminal activity and calls for service, such as the First Street Bridge, which is subject to gang-related graffiti tagging and subsequent painting by the Public Works Department. He said the cameras are no different than having a stake-out car sitting there, minus the officer inside the car.
The chief said the cameras could be monitored live or the video would be viewed later to help find the culprits. He said the department is interested in obtaining a tool to mitigate criminal activity and prevent damage to city and public infrastructure.
Christianson said he looked at the issue as "Big Brother looking over our shoulders,'' whether it was government or the police department.
He asked why city committee and commission meetings are not being recorded.
"We're not afraid to video tape the public, but we seem somehow to be afraid to video tape for the public our meetings,'' he said. "Am I going down the wrong road here?''
Mayor Les Heitke said the two issues were different.
"It has to do with surveillance cameras and high-crime areas,'' he said. "I don't see committee meetings as being high-crime areas.''
Dokken said it's a proven fact that cameras works "but I think it needs to be very closely scrutinized as to why we're doing it and we need to document why we're doing it and what the results were.''
Among other agenda items, the council:
- Approved four leases that will let adjacent landowners farm land inside the corridor for the wastewater interceptor sewer line west of the city. The negotiated rate of $100 takes into consideration reduced productivity caused by disturbance of the land when the interceptor was constructed.
- Approved an on-sale liquor license for the Design Center to serve wine during the downtown Willmar Blend dinner from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Aug. 13.
- Approved a permanent utility line easement with Jennie-O Turkey Store that will give city workers access to Jennie-O property located in the northeast corner of Benson Avenue and 11th Street Southwest for routine maintenance of a wastewater manhole structure and overflow pipe. Jennie-O has approved the easement, according to officials.
- Approved a joint powers agreement with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, to participate in a pilot program called eCharging, a computerized network that allows law enforcement, prosecutors and courts to file charging documents electronically rather than filing paper documents. Kulset said the program should streamline the process of filing documents with the courts.