Parks commission OKs new security camera, wifi system

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

It won’t be long before you can access free wifi in Basin Park.

On Tuesday, Sept. 19, the Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission heard from parks director Justin Huss about the need for a new security camera and wifi system in Basin Park.

“The camera in Basin Park is kaput. We don’t have any coverage right now,” Huss said. “We need to fix that.”

The commission has money that has been donated specifically for that reason, Huss said. He suggested adding wifi in Basin Park, saying that will meet another need for locals and visitors. It would be perfect to have wifi in Basin Park, Huss said, because of the park’s location.

“It’s the center of our city. It’s the heartbeat of the city,” Huss said. “We need wifi for the camera system to work. In that process, we could serve multiple purposes.”

The camera system he’s been looking into, Huss said, would have a DVR on-site with a battery backup. The images will still be sent to the police department, he said, and the camera system would automatically reboot if it lost power. Commissioner Ferguson Stewart said the city of Green Forest received a grant to pay for security cameras, saying Eureka Springs needs more surveillance in its parks.

“I think it’s absolutely in our wheelhouse,” Huss agreed.

Chairman Bill Featherstone asked if there’s wifi in Basin Park already, and Huss said no. Huss added that the police department is willing to work with the commission on the camera system, agreeing to purchase some parts of it. The commission should purchase a camera system that could be expanded in the future, Huss said.

“It’s just taking it to a modern level. We’re basically going to put what we can there that should last the longest until it’s outdated,” Huss said. “We should be able to have a little bit of an expansion down the road for more cameras.”

Stewart said he supports the idea.

“We’re covering a lot of things I’m focused on: public safety, security for our property and providing a resource people need,” Stewart said. “People want their wifi.”

Huss said he has met with other department heads, saying police chief Thomas Achord is behind the new camera system, too.

“Chief Achord sums it up best. His comment was, ‘It only needs to work one time and it pays for itself,’ ” Huss said. “I think that’s fairly powerful and succinct.”

Featherstone asked how the commission would divvy up the money for the system and said it’s something the city desperately needs.

“I would rather spend $7,379.08 on something that sounds like it’s what we need and will work and has some longevity to it than eight cents on what we’ve had for the past several years, which has been kind of a joke, quite frankly,” Featherstone said.

When it comes to the money, Huss said, the commission could throw in some cameras at Harmon Park, too.

“I’d say we give ourselves a 10 percent overage and $500 for the electrician,” Huss said. “It would be $8,500 from the reserve, and then if we want to talk about Harmon … I don’t know if we want to do them both in one swoop. Harmon’s pretty straightforward.”

To add a camera in Harmon Park, Huss said, it would cost another $1,500. That would put the total cost at $10,000, he said.

“I’m a little disappointed this is all coming out of our pocket,” Featherstone said.

“I don’t relish taking what we put in the reserves,” Huss said. “But I think we’ll have a surplus this year to put back in the reserves.”

Stewart moved to remove $10,000 from the reserves to create a video surveillance system and wifi data network for Basin Park and Harmon Park, and the commission agreed to do so.

“Maybe we can project some movies down there now,” Featherstone said.

In other business, Stewart announced he found a volunteer coordinator for the new Friends of the Parks group. Manny Hardaway is the perfect person to lead the group, Stewart said.

“He’s actually new to the area, but just in the small time he’s been here has been a remarkable individual in his ability to integrate and basically understand the community,” Stewart said.

Hardaway has already agreed to take the position, Stewart said. Hardaway spoke to the commission, saying he lived in Northwest Arkansas for three months in 2013.

“A long, long, long, long, long time ago, I went to the University of Arkansas. I used to come over here, so I’m familiar with Eureka Springs,” Hardaway said.

Huss said he’s excited to have Hardaway on board.

“Manny and I have had several opportunities to talk and wax philosophically about numerous topics around town, so I was delighted when Fergie brought his name up,” Huss said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s a desperate need. Reaching out goes a long way with volunteers, and to have someone to coordinate with that will be greatly appreciated.”

Hardaway said he’s excited, too.

“I’m looking forward to getting a history on how Eureka Springs works and how parks works,” Hardaway said. “I don’t have a hidden agenda or anything. I’ve done volunteer work all my life, from my early teens to now. I look forward to understanding the process and procedure and what you guys want me to do and what the needs are.”

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, at The Auditorium.

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