City council discusses downtown security cameras
By Eileen Persike
Should Rhinelander have security cameras on Brown Street? City alder and downtown business owner Thomas Barnett brought the question to the common council July 13 as a new business agenda item. Barnett, who owns Tom’s Drawing Board, said security cameras outside his shop have aided police investigations in the past.
“It really struck me that it should be easy accessible for the police department to be able to get information,” Barnett said. “I don’t think it should be a quote-unquote big brother kind of thing, but it definitely is a tool I think the police department could utilize to help keep our community safe.”
Barnett suggested two cameras be installed, one at the Rives Street intersection and one at the Davenport intersection. Rhinelander Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier said he had looked into the possibility of putting a camera up on the southeast corner of the police department building a couple of years ago. Connectivity, he said was and remains an obstacle.
“Especially late at night it becomes a – with the establishments there are downtown – it becomes a busier area, where we do have vandalism, criminal damage to property, where the planters are damaged, other places are damaged from people walking from establishment to establishment, pulling on the trees, and we do find ourselves revisiting the businesses that do have cameras to help identify who does the damage so that would make some of those things a little easier if we did have that camera downtown,” Gauthier told the council.
Data System Administrator Tara Tessmann agreed that data storage is an issue.
“We are running out of space,” Tessmann said. “We can control what’s recorded, but if we’re putting in a camera somewhere on the street that’s going to record all the time, [that is] a lot of size…if you don’t have someone to maintain [videos], look at them, delete them, you’re looking at something very costly and very large.”
Consultant Zach Vruwink, hired by Mayor Chris Frederickson in May, said other municipalities have seen downtown business associations or BID (Business Improvement Districts) districts take on a project such as this, because it benefits only a part of the community.
“Instead of the entire taxpayer base subsidizing surveillance in a portion of town – because then the residents are going to say, what about Lincoln, Oneida Street intersection or what about – you pick the intersection, so I think that’s where I’ve seen it,” Vruwink said. “Especially if there are conversations about bringing the BID back, this could be a great value-add for those business owners who are driving a direct benefit from better surveillance in the downtown district.”
The council voted to approve Council President Ryan Rossing’s motion to direct city staff to look into two cameras and the costs associated with installing security cameras on Brown Street.
The next city council meeting is 6 p.m., Monday, July 27.