Town Council pulls cameras from gazebo

FRONT ROYAL – Front Royal is removing surveillance cameras from the gazebo area in downtown over privacy concerns.

Town Council voted 4-2 on Monday to remove the three cameras the town had placed in the gazebo at Main and Chester streets.

Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger had requested that the town remove the equipment because it records activities of otherwise law-abiding people near the gazebo.

Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe and Councilman Eugene Tewalt voted against the action.

Town Manager Steve Burke said the cameras have been placed in storage and officials have not yet decided how else to use the equipment.

Egger brought up the topic at a council work session in October. The town installed the cameras several years ago in an effort to help cut down on crime in the area. But Egger argued that the cameras also recorded downtown visitors and residents going about their daily routines. Egger has pointed out that some private businesses downtown already use surveillance equipment.

However, the police department provided information to council and town officials indicating that cameras have assisted or could have helped in the agency when it investigated specific criminal activity near the gazebo. The department also has received complaints about people using narcotics in the gazebo.

Also at the meeting, council:
* Voted to adopt a resolution that allows AG Laser Technology LLC, 1330 Progress Drive, to receive the benefits given to businesses included in the technology zone. The business operates in the Happy Creek Technology Park. The board of directors of the Front Royal-Warren County Industrial Development Authority recently found that the entity meets the definition of a technology business and is located in a technology zone. As such, AG Laser Technology qualifies for a $500 grant to cover costs associated with certain permits and fees and credits toward its business professional occupational license fees owed to the town.
* Voted to accept a bid of $98,115 for three transformers and to approve a budget amendment in the amount of $65,410 to buy two transformers. Two of the transformers will be installed for the new Warren County Middle School. The town will seek reimbursement from the county for the two transformers. The third transformer will be installed at the wastewater treatment plant.
* Voted to award a $100,000 contract for inflow and infiltration engineering services to CHA. The town is under special order by consent with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to reduce the frequency of by-passes and sanitary-sewer overflows when excess stormwater enters the system.
* Voted to amend the budget by $3,000 to use money from asset forfeitures to cover the loss of the trade-in value on a 2007 Harley Davidson motorcycle the police department had planned to use to buy a 2015 Victory Commander motorcycle. The Harley Davidson sustained damage during a training exercise before the department could trade it in for the new vehicle.
* Voted to approve a request for up to $1,550 to fund First Night Front Royal – a series of activities planned for New Year’s Eve at Main and Chester streets.
* Voted to reappoint Cary Hulse and David Means to the Urban Forestry Advisory Commission.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com