Johnson County officials seek updated surveillance and security technology


SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

A number of Johnson County officials say outdated and inadequate surveillance and emergency-alert technology at county government facilities is threatening their safety and that of the Iowa City community.

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Janelle Rettig said an April 24 altercation that resulted in a gun being pulled on a local citizen in the parking lot adjacent to the Health and Human Services Building, 855 S. Dubuque St., is just the most recent example of the need for updates.

Official bid requests regarding surveillance updates at the Health and Human Services Building, the Johnson County Courthouse, and the Administration Building went live on April 26, but no official proposals were available as of Monday evening.

“The instance with the gun last week I think draws to the point of why this matters,” she said. “You can’t protect everybody, but it’d sure be nice to have [surveillance] footage. The gas stations have better cameras and technology than we do.”

Rettig said any time there is a large concentration of public officials including supervisors, public and mental-health officials, heightened security should be a requirement.

Analog surveillance cameras and a “panic” button system were in place for previous county election periods, but were removed during a 2009 renovation to the County Administration Building. Nearly four years later, the “panic” system remains uninstalled; however, Rettig said, preliminary testing has occurred for new technology, some of which are smaller than standard garage door openers.

Although original plans called for building-by-building surveillance and “panic” updates, Rettig said current capital expenditure funds of an undisclosed amount may be able to pay for the installation at all three buildings. Although favoring a comprehensive approach, she said if it came down to it, the priority lies with the installation of the “panic” systems at all three buildings over updated surveillance technology.

Definitive costs or installation period for the two technology upgrades have yet to be determined.

Supervisor Pat Harney said he favors the proposed surveillance measures if such technology is used properly in the form of a wireless system. He said he shies away from the notion of spending a lot of money to update the Courthouse but believes the wireless option would be the most favorable in terms of coinciding with justice center construction if the May 7 vote passes.

“There have been court-security problems we’ve been talking about over the past few years,” he said. “ But things are going to happen time to time at different places. You can’t have a camera everywhere.”

County facilities manager Eldon Slaughter said no definitive costs or installation period for the two technology upgrades have been determined to date. He said although minimal analog surveillance camera technology is in place at the Courthouse, a transition to digital technology will not only result in improved high-definition picture quality but also longer taping capability, thus improving overall building safety.

He emphasized the push for increased security technology is not a tactical ploy by the county government to encourage voters to approve the new justice center.

“This is not just something that just came out because of the justice center, so you can take that notion out of your head,” he said.

In today's issue:

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.