Police surveillance cameras are coming to the Railroad Avenue and Grangebel Park areas due in part to federal Community Development Block Grants, Riverhead Town officials said Thursday.
The town has been discussing cameras as a means of deterring crime downtown for many years, but has yet to implement them, mostly due to the cost.
According to town community development director Dawn Thomas, the town had already budgeted CDBG funding for certain projects last year, and had about $160,000 in unspent money available.
Ms. Thomas said the town got a call from the county Wednesday saying it had to spend that money — and be reimbursed for that spending — by June 10 or it would lose the funding.
The town must first hold a public hearing to amend its CDBG budget and move the funding from other categories into an account for parking lots and pedestrian improvements.
That hearing will be scheduled for May 22 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.
Since the board had already planned to buy security cameras for downtown, officials said the CDBG money could be used for that. About $124,413 in CDBG money is now being allocated for the camera systems, which would be built in four phases, according to Police Chief David Hegermiller.
Officials did not indicate how they planned to spend the remainder of the $160,000.
Ms. Thomas said the federal Housing and Urban Development office “wants us to spend everything to clean out the account.”
The first two phases of the camera project would cost about $41,000 combined, and would be used to upgrade police headquarters to receive the video feeds from the cameras.
The third phase would be to install cameras in the area of the railroad station on Railroad Avenue, and the fourth phase would be to install cameras in Grangebel Park, according to the chief.
He said he recommended these locations be done first because police data indicated those areas have the highest need.
A fifth and sixth phase would be done in the future to target other areas like downtown, according to the chief.
The video feed will come to the town over Cablevision’s Optimum wifi, for which the town would pay about $100 per month, the chief said.
Back in January, the town was told the camera system would cost about $400,000.
The CDBG is federal money, but it is it allocated to towns through a county consortium.
“This is a huge step in the right direction,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said at Thursday’s work session, where the cameras were discussed.
Later in the day, Mr. Hubbard, a Republican, issued a press release saying that he “has secured federal funding through the Community Development Department to immediately increase police safety downtown through the purchase and installation of security cameras at strategic locations in downtown Riverhead.”
Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, a Democrat, later called the News-Review to dispute Mr. Hubbard’s account. She said it was done by the Community Development Department and that it was something the police chief brought up several months ago.
“This has been an ongoing project between the police department and the full Town Board,” she said.
Ms. Jens-Smith later sent out her own press release as a “correction to Councilman Hubbard’s announcement.”
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, a Republican, said at the work session that it was Mr. Hubbard’s suggestion to use the CDBG funding for the cameras.