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August 29, 2019 - Work Session Minutes - Wastewater Plant and Police Cameras

Wastewater Treatment Plant and Police Cameras
Thursday, August 29, 2019

A Special Meeting of the City Commission for the City of Buchanan was scheduled at City Hall, 302 N. Redbud Trail, Buchanan, Michigan Thursday, August, 2019 at 6:00 p.m.  The Mayor called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m.

Members present: Mayor Moore, Commissioners Toerne, Downey, Weedon, and Denison
Members absent:  None
Staff present:        Bill Housand, Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator; Tim Ganus, Assistant Police Chief; Harvey Burnett, Sargent Buchanan Police Department; Bill Marx, City Manager and Brenda Hess, City Clerk
Guests/Visitors present:  1

Wastewater Treatment Plant Staffing- Bill Housand
Housand reviewed history of plant staff and noted first time in many years that there hasn’t been a lab technician.  Remarked turnover impacts quality.  City needs another person with a license, especially with the new oxidation ditch project beginning soon.  Housand noted that people have a difficult time passing wastewater certification tests.  Shortage of operators has been noted by Michigan Municipal League.  There are only 6 A or B operators in all of Berrien County.  Contract operators create issues because of costs, and it was noted that just because someone has a license and they are a contract worker doesn’t mean they have the best skill set.  Noted new person could be shared with water department which also needs additional staffing. Testing for exams is done by the State and there remains a shortage of classes for candidates to take to practice and learn before taking the test. Retirements have drained the pool of qualified operators and instructors.  

Housand noted there is not currently a struggle to get work done, but somewhere down the road there will be a shortage of licensed operators at the plant.  Commission inquired if there were local candidates, but Housand noted there weren’t.  Concern was expressed about spending time and money training someone only to have them leave.  Housand noted City wastewater wages are good, but some changes could be made to the top of the pay scale.  Housand is only person with B license and they are rotating 2, 12-hour days with 2 days off.  Noted burnout can happen on such an intense schedule with little time for vacation or personal days off.  Housand noted that water department is also in need of additional staffing and hiring someone could provide stability for both staffs.  

Marx recapped that this information needs to be considered for the future.  SAW grant needs to be considered and in 2021 lead and copper requirements go into effect.  Housand noted State tightening up standards and requiring more information from municipalities.  Marx noted the City received letter from State stating some deficiencies in reporting which need to be corrected by November 15.  Downey inquired if adding administrative help would provide relief for Housand.  Housand noted his primary concern is losing staff with licenses.  New employee is still 4 years away from getting a license.  One staff member has a class D license, but not necessarily desire to obtain a higher-class license.  There are enough projects to keep all staff busy which includes projects outside of the plant such as street projects and repairs of storm water sewers.  SAW grant and lead and copper line replacement mandates will keep water department busy as well.  

Weedon inquired on the specific needs of the wastewater department.  Housand recommended having a 20-hour lab person and get training with the other aspects of wastewater work, but it is preferred to find an operator/lead operator. Dollar amount for lab person $22 to $23 per hour. If an operator cannot be found, perhaps a lab person could be found from a local college; they would not have wastewater experience but could be trained while doing the lab work.  Weedon inquired as to the pay for B operator.  Housand said there are none available.  Toerne noted there is extreme shortage of operators.  Toerne also noted because we are getting a new plant soon; it might draw someone who wants to work with new technology.  Housand noted that there is a great deal of responsibility for wastewater employees citing working with blood borne pathogens, the responsibility for environmental spills, ladder work and other serious responsibilities.  Marx noted union contract needs updates.  There are line items for temporary staff for both the wastewater and water departments which could be utilized for hiring someone.  Due to short staff, more money is paid in overtime.  Housand reiterated this decision is for the long haul and for prevention of staff shortages in the future.  He advised against getting contract operators because of the expense.  Noted it would be ideal to hire a person in the next six months.  New person could learn new plant as it was being built and would know the inner workings while also learning about the old plant and its maintenance needs.

Police Cameras- Tim Ganus and Harvey Burnett
Current camera was purchased in 2012, but standards have increased as well as public expectation.  Currently cameras only cover what happens in front of the cruiser.  Officers currently wear mics and they are synced with the camera.  If officer leaves area in front of car video is lost but audio remains.  Current system is no longer made and parts are difficult to come by.  Difficult to get repairs and the server has problems.  Communities depend upon the recording of audio and video for certain encounter with public.  Ganus noted that requested equipment comes from the same company as current equipment.  It includes 1 front facing camera, 1 backseat camera for detainees, and 1 for officers to wear.  Digital Ally is provider of the cameras.  Body cams will help officers do job and assist with image capture at crime scenes. Prosecutors need footage.  Noted we are one major event away from being in the National news because of lack of video and support to officer and department.  New system provides transparency to residents and community which will help build trust.  Community expects recording of events in detail.  

Denison inquired as to what equipment came in new squad car.  Burnett explained old equipment gets transferred into new car.  Only 3 cars are primary patrol vehicles which have cameras, the others do not.  Inquired as to how we ensure cameras are on when officers are inside a residence.  Door triggers can be installed on cars which turn camera on once they exit vehicle. Once overhead lights turn on car, the cameras are activated.  Additionally, cameras can be activated by officer without lights being on.  Sometimes data space does not need to be taken up during times of waiting for ambulances, etc. and officers can turn the cameras off during those times.  Downey comment upon possible marijuana crime and the importance for equipment to be up to date.  Provides confidence for officers and support.  Eliminates problem of bystander only video.  Moore inquire if Digital Ally was good to work with and if old system could be fixed.  Ganus noted old equipment will be traded in and the money would be put towards the new system.  Old cameras are used for parts.  New system and old systems are not compatible and cannot be integrated with each other. Burnett noted the State Police use this system.  Noted this is a trusted company and the cameras have been durable.  

Burnett noted that currently flash drives had to be removed and downloaded, which is not true for the new system that is no longer required.  Current cameras have to be shipped out for repairs and the starting fee is $300 before repairs are even started.  Moore inquired about the cost for software upgrades.  Burnett commented the access point for downloading has an annual fee which is $399.00 per year which breaks down to about $40 per month.  It stores images as well and they are stored securely on the cloud.  Current server has issue storing all the video images.  There are retention schedules for video of 60 days.  

Moore inquired about training and Ganus noted that they will need new training for the body cameras, and he is looking into training from surrounding communities.  Moore asked if department would be willing to do a public demonstration of the cameras and explain how citizens’ rights to privacy and cameras can coexist.  Ganus and Burnett agreed that it was a good idea.  Video retention and sharing should be explained to the public.  Ganus noted there are strict rules for videos once they are captured.  The Department currently has policies and procedures for video.  Toerne expressed support for demonstration and education for community.  Expressed idea it might be a deterrent for wrong doers while providing protection for officers.  Cameras can also change attitudes of people being approached by officers.  Citizens are offered security by the cameras.  

Ganus noted officers would be responsible for cameras and they download and recharge after each shift.  These are for full time officers for now, but department would like to expand it to reserve officers.  Cameras synch with any car the officers gets into. Charges last for 12-hour shifts depending upon the amount of citizen contact officer has.  Moore inquired about power outages, but cameras will still work and have backup batteries. 

Denison inquired about how many times the cameras have been instrumental in helping officers.  Ganus commented that it frequently provides backup for what officers are explaining in court.  Burnett noted that even the audio helps in cases.  

Moore asked if department is concerned about marijuana consumption and the new Ordinance and if they need field testing support.  Ganus noted the State is working on levels for impairment for THC levels which will help law enforcement.  He noted it is legalized so it’s expected people will use it.  Ganus is confident that establishment will follow the rules and he noted that the new dispensary has not caused problems so far.  Currently field sobriety tests cover impairment of both alcohol and THC, but blood must be tested for THC. There are still no levels set. Moore noted that revenue from medical marijuana could be used for purchasing equipment.  She expressed disappointment in the State and their lack of revenue sharing from marijuana taxation.  Marx noted projection revenue sharing should be announced soon.

Being no further discussion, Toerne moved, seconded by Denison to adjourn the meeting at 7:14 p.m. Voice vote carried unanimously. 

____________________________            ____________________________
Brenda J. Hess, City Clerk                          Patricia Moore, Mayor

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