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Burlington City Council approves purchase of new security camera system

Burlington City Hall
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Burlington City Hall

The Burlington, Vermont City Council has approved a plan to purchase new security cameras.

Vermont’s largest city currently has about 200 security cameras in use in outdoor and indoor venues operating at all times. There have been some thoughts of expanding the numbers and locations of the cameras.

Chief Innovation Officer Scot Barker told the council Monday that the current security camera system software and servers are at the end of life, out-of-date and need to be updated.

“The system is built out in two pieces. One is the software and the servers that is designed to run the security camera systems. And then there is money in the quote as well, or in the proposal, to buy an additional 100 cameras both for break/fix. We know that there are 12 to 15 cameras that are not working right now that we need to replace right away. We also know that there are 15 to 20 that we know we need to add in certain areas.”

Barker explained that information from the cameras only goes to police dispatch and is kept for a maximum of 90 days. But Ward 3 Progressive Joe Magee opposes the proposed $425,000 purchase.

“It’s not that I don’t understand that the system is at end-of-life and that these upgrades need to be made. The concerns that I have relate mostly to the scope and the scale of these updates. I have serious concerns about the initial purchase of 100 cameras as well as concerns about the potential capacity of this system to hold up to 600 cameras," said Magee. "Without seeing the policy that is used for camera deployment, without seeing the policy connected to how the video capture is used, I can’t support this item.”

During the discussion it was noted that the cost of the new software and servers will be increasing between 15 and 20 percent after September 17th. While Ward 2 Progressive Gene Bergman shares some of the concerns expressed by Magee and other Progressives, he said the significant cost increase justifies moving forward.

“I would like to see a presentation by the administration on the policies, on the way that this is going to fit in to the big public safety strategy that we have and be able to explain all of that to the public as well and feel assured by the public presentation that the privacy concerns that people may have are going to not be real concerns.”

The city council also received an update on the new high school construction project from school district officials. A presentation on redistricting led to approval of a public work session to be held sometime later this month.