Waterville council votes to buy monitoring system for RiverWalk

City officials approved the installation of a security camera system at the RiverWalk at Head of Falls in downtown Waterville, seen May 18. The park has witnessed numerous acts of vandalism and other illegal activities that officials say are costing the city thousands of dollars. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel File

WATERVILLE – City Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday to purchase a $41,339 security surveillance system for the RiverWalk in Head of Falls to reduce vandalism, increase public safety and identify and apprehend those who vandalize the area and engage in other illegal activities.

Council voted on an ordinance and two resolutions as part of the RiverWalk monitoring system application. Councilors voted 7-0 to accept a $30,000 donation from Colby College to be used to purchase the system from Griffon Security Technologies, a Kennebunk company that also installed a security system for City Hall. The board needs to take two votes to accept this donation, and could only take one vote on Tuesday.

Councilors voted 6 to 1, with Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, dissenting, to spend $11,339 from the police department’s drug forfeiture fund on the remainder needed to purchase the monitoring system. The board voted 6-1, with Foss again the only dissenter, to approve the purchase of the system from Griffon.

Mayor Jay Coelho reiterated what he has said in the past, which is that he opposes the idea of ​​installing cameras in public places. He said he hoped the cameras would do what city officials thought they would, but he doubted it.

“I still don’t like the cameras there,” he said.

Foss agreed.

“I don’t like cameras watching people’s every move,” he said.

Ward 4 resident Elizabeth Leonard asked what options, other than installing cameras, had been considered to resolve the issue at the RiverWalk.

Police Chief Joseph Massey said he has increased patrols at RiverWalk, conducted targeted patrols and has the area patrolled in plain clothes, but illegal activity continues. He said the RiverWalk is a gem and one of the best amenities in town and people need to be able to feel safe there.

“Overall, I think it’s a good spend, and we did everything we could,” Massey said.

Seven cameras will be installed in five areas – at the gazebo near the Two Cent Bridge, near the Front Street entrance, at the gazebo, in the stage area at the north end of the RiverWalk and at the Farmers Market parking lot.

Police Department dispatchers will be able to see the activity happening at the RiverWalk, but they are very busy and won’t be able to watch all the time, Massey said recently. But if a crime occurs there and police are made aware of it, they can review the video to try to identify those responsible, he said.

On other issues Tuesday, the council voted 7-0 to donate $50,000 of American Rescue Plan Act federal funds received in 2021-22 to five organizations, as recommended by the city’s advisory committee on the American Rescue Plan Act. As part of the vote, Educare Central Maine will receive $15,000; Habitat for Humanity, $3,000; Maine Children’s Home, $15,000; Waterville area soup kitchen, $10,000; and Waterville Community Land Trust, $7,000.

Committee chair Jennifer Johnson explained how these organizations plan to use the funds. Habitat, for example, will provide vouchers for people in need of household items such as appliances or furniture to use at Habitat’s ReStore, she said. The soup kitchen will use the funds to add take-out breakfasts and meals, and the land trust will help people make home repairs that, if left undone, would make their homes uninhabitable.

“It’s to keep people home,” Johnson said.

The committee recommended that $30,000 in ARPA funds be provided as part of the 2022-2023 budget, including $15,000 to the Alfond Youth & Community Center and $15,000 to the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter.

Councilors voted to extend a contract with WasteZero for purple trash bags for a year. They also voted to renew a contract with Ecomaine for recycling services.

But Coelho, City Manager Steve Daly and some councilors said the city plans to evaluate all solid waste disposal options over the coming year.

The board voted to approve a Federal Aviation Administration grant amendment that would add $19,000 to an initial FAA grant to the city for $332,000, to be used for sealing cracks and painting traffic marks on runways, aprons and a taxiway at the city-owned Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport. Daly said the FAA is paying for the entire $6 million taxiway project.


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