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Surveillance cameras coming to city

The city plans to use a federal Homeland Security grant to install three surveillance video cameras near two major chemical plants in the northern part of Lockport.

The Common Council Wednesday authorized bidding for the camera system.

Police Detective Capt. Richard L. Podgers said its price is estimated at $50,000.

He said the city applied last year for the "buffer zone critical infrastructure" money passed through Albany from Washington.

"If they like your plan, they pay for it in full," Podgers said.

Lockport's plan is to mount three cameras on utility poles near the VanDeMark and Twin Lake chemical plants on Mill Street.

The system would include the installation of video monitors in Police Headquarters, where officers would have the ability to pan and zoom the cameras in case of suspicious activity.

The cameras also would show the direction of movement of any cloud of gas released from the plants.

"We have had over the years many small fires and releases," Podgers said.

He said the city hopes to install the cameras before Jan. 1.

The Council resolution calls this a "citywide camera system." Three cameras won't suffice for citywide coverage, but Podgers said the system's wiring would enable the city to add more cameras later.

"When you do this, you start an infrastructure," Podgers said. He said the city could use the option of allowing businesses that could be considered critical infrastructure to buy a surveillance camera to put them on the system.

"We're not going to be a private security company for a burglary at your business," Podgers said.

On another topic, the Council approved a local hiring policy asking contractors who win city contracts worth more than $50,000 to try to hire 30 percent of the workers on the project from within Niagara County.

The same rules apply to a developer who receives city aid for a project worth more than $250,000.

The original proposal, suggested by NOAH -- Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope, a faith-based group -- called for fining businesses who violated the law. However, the city dropped that notion.

Instead, the law includes an arbitration procedure and the threat of cancellation of a company's contract, along with the possibility of a lawsuit.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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