City eyes tech upgrade

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 1, 2011

VIDALIA — The Vidalia aldermen were introduced to a couple of technological upgrades the city has planned for the fire and police departments Thursday evening at a special meeting at City Hall.

City Information Technology Administrator Bob Buseck gave two presentations to the board and Mayor Hyram Copeland regarding safety upgrades for the area’s citizens and civil service agents.

Buseck first spoke of a new program the Vidalia Fire Department will be able to use that incorporates Google Earth.

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Using Google Earth, Buseck mapped out every fire hydrant in Vidalia and made it visible on the online mapping system.

“It points out where everyone of them are, and even provides a picture of where it is located on the street,” he said. “It also shows other features like when the last flow test was done and how many gallons per minute the hydrant releases.”

Buseck said this feature will be a great help for firemen, because it will allow them to know where all the hydrants are, and if they are working.

“This will especially be good at night because it will give them a view during day time of where the hydrant is,” he said. “They can also look around with the street view and see where they can park their truck.”

Copeland said he hopes the implementation of this program will improve Vidalia’s current fire rating of three to a two or a one.

“This can be a tremendous advantage for us,” he said.

Buseck said the city hopes to install a computer into every fire truck in the city so that they have access to Google Earth and the hydrant locations.

Buseck also said Vidalia plans on mapping every building in the city on Google Earth so that the police department can see every exit and entry point of a building using the program.

Buseck said the program is still very new, but the opportunities it can bring to the city are incredible.

“A lot of cities across the U.S. are doing this,” he said.

The second technological upgrade for the city is located in eight of Vidalia’s new police cars, Buseck said.

Through a grant, the Vidalia Police Department has installed a two-part camera system in these vehicles that will allow officers to take video from the front and rear of the car, and Buseck said it will keep officers and residents safer while they are on the streets.

According to the VPD, the cameras turn on once an officer hits his lights to initiate a traffic stop.

Once the light turns on, the camera, which is mounted on the windshield next to the rear view mirror, begins recording and taking audio of the events taking place in front of the car.

The image the camera is capturing is displayed to the officer in a small window in the upper left hand corner of the mirror.

There is also a camera in the mirror that takes video of the backseat of the car.

Once an officer steps out of the vehicle, he has an external microphone and camera on his uniform that he must turn on to begin recording.

Buseck said the officers take the memory cards from the cameras in the car and the one on their uniforms and download the video at the police station when they get back to the station.

“They can review the video, but they cannot edit or take out anything on it,” he said. “There is a supervisor who is in charge of it, and they are the only ones who can make changes.”

Buseck said officers will be able to attach the videos to crime reports and send them to be used as evidence in court.

Copeland said the camera system is going to be a great addition to the police force.

“This just shows you what we can pay for through grants,” he said. “This is something we are going to be able to use for a long time, and it is going to keep officers and the residents safer.”

In other news:

4 The aldermen voted to amend the 2010-2011 budget to reflect the actual spending for the fiscal year.

The amended budget left the city with a total of $10,205,738 for their ending fund balance for the year.

The board also voted to adopt the 2011-2012 budget, with the total expenditures for the fiscal year projected to be $35,122,778.

4 The board also passed a resolution that would allow them to declare an emergency to repair the convention center without having to go through a bid process to do it.

“We need to get things going very quickly with the repair work over there,” Copeland said. “We don’t need to sit and wait around for bids.”

4 Vidalia aldermen also discussed plans to instate rules to regulate the amount of time political signs can be displayed prior to and after elections.

Copeland said an appropriate timeframe for signs to be displayed is 60 days before elections and 10 days after elections.

The aldermen will vote July 12, and if the motion passes, regulations will go into affect 10 days following the vote.