Council renews Flock camera contract, school prevention specialist

by Laura Bednar

July 11 city council meeting

The Independence Police Department extended its contract with Flock Safety for automatic license plate reader cameras and software. The cameras are placed throughout the city to notify officers of stolen vehicles and individuals with warrants entering Independence.

Police Chief Robert Butler said a five-year contract extension will prevent a $15,500 annual price increase for the city’s 31 cameras. Independence currently pays $77,500 per year. The city would be locked into a regular rate for additional camera purchases.

“I foresee that this is the technology that we will continue to use for the next five years,” said Butler. “I will state that the vast majority of Cuyahoga County municipalities use Flock, and many have already signed up to do this.”

The police no longer will use Hilltop Garage at 5670 Brecksville Rd. for towed or stored vehicles, according to Butler. Kufner Towing on Ridge Road in Cleveland is taking its place. Butler asked council to approve instituting a fee for towing services.

He explained the fee would cover “the time of the officer, the paperwork, the work of our civilians on the police side [and] our clerks, to make sure that everything is done for this tow.”

The $30 fee would be paid to the city’s general fund and could be waived in instances of a violent offense or someone injured. Council voted in favor of adding the fee with a 6-1 vote.

Councilperson Jim Trakas, the only nay vote, said, “I don’t think we need it. People want to pay for the tow, let them pay for the tow.”

Contract renewals

Council approved the renewal of a 12-month contract with Fairsite Technologies to provide support for the information technology department for $33,475 with an additional $15,000 for projects outside of the normal agreement. Jim Gibbs, Fairsite owner, said the $15,000 is a discretionary fund that would cover things such as replacing firewalls in city computers or installing security cameras in the city.

Independence will again partner with the Independence Local Schools to provide a prevention specialist – a licensed social worker – to serve families and students. Independence will split the cost with the schools, each paying $37,715 to the Educational Services Center of Northeast Ohio. The prevention specialist, Alexa Belcon, has a caseload of 52 students, many of whom are referrals from teachers, according to Angie Zidanic, clerk of courts.

Council approved by a 5-2 vote a $25,000 contract with Youth for Christ to conduct a campus life program at the schools. This program has been part of the schools since 2010.

According to a memo from Zidanic, “Youth for Christ serves in schools across Northeast Ohio teaching character-based curriculum and mentoring students without addressing faith-based issues during the school day.”

Councilpersons Anthony Togliatti and Dale Veverka dissented. “The concept was to wean the program away from city money,” said Veverka. “The opposite is true as council has dramatically increased financial support over the years.” He said he believes the program overlaps with the prevention specialist.

The fire department will purchase a 2024 Kawasaki Mule Pro utility terrain vehicle designed to fit in smaller spaces and carry a patient through areas of the national park, according to Fire Chief Steve Rega. The cost of the vehicle, accessories and patient-carrying unit is $40,108. ∞