Town Considers Park Uses, Security

BLYTHEWOOD (May 19, 2016) – With the increasing popularity of Doko Park and the Manor, Council continued at their May 12 workshop to look at the increasing need to control and monitor what goes on in the park and around the Manor. To that end, Town Administrator Gary Parker asked Council for guidance on what uses should be permitted/prohibited in the park and how to monitor the park.

Permitted Park Uses

Parker said Council should make it clear to park participants if it is not going to allow bounce houses, other inflatables and mechanical rides. He also wanted guidance on how, if such a policy were initiated, it would be enforced.

Mayor J. Michael Ross suggested a park attendant.

“I would like this Council to think about a Saturday employee that’s in this park from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., eight hours, for the safety of the people who come here and to remind them of what they can and can’t do,” Ross said. “It’s just a thought, but the budget is coming up and I think we’re big enough.”

Town Attorney Jim Meggs suggested crafting an ordinance to address the park issues.

“I’d suggest this would be a good segue to having a full discussion about an ordinance related to all the park’s prohibitions, permitting and procedures,” Meggs said. “We need an ordinance combined with assistance from the Sheriff’s Department.”

Councilman Tom Utroska suggested having simple signs posted at the entrances, such as: ‘picnicking allowed in certain areas,’ ‘only use gas grills,’ ‘no inflatables allowed.’

“I think most people will abide by what we post,” Utroska said. “But I don’t want 18 signs all over the park.”

“Are we making a mountain out of a mole hill?” Councilman Larry Griffin asked. “I don’t want to kill the whole park thing. We can put up a few signs saying what we can and can’t do. I’ve played ball in parks all over the United States of America. Why is our park different? I don’t see policemen all over the city or state parks. When you see a lot of security, it gives the impression that something is wrong.”

Parker and Meggs reiterated that the town would eventually need an ordinance in place as the park gets busier. Ross agreed.

“The ordinance is something to move forward with that will give us some teeth,” Ross said.

Security Cameras

With infrequent but considerable vandalism having already occurred in the park, Parker stressed the need for a security system with cameras. He presented two quotes – for $16,000 the town would own the system and monitor it, and for $7,000 – $8,000, the security firm would own the equipment and monitor it for the town in addition to Town Hall staff monitoring it.

“The reason this is before us at all is because we have had some vandalism issues in the park and want to prevent it from happening in the future,” Parker told Council. “And if vandalism does occur, we’ll have some evidence as to who to hold accountable. Both the systems we’re looking at use cameras and video recorders, so I think a system is not only for vandals, but it prevents problems. If someone falls on the playground, the camera protests us from possible problems.”

Parker said Irmo has a similar (smaller) security system with 23 cameras.

“After they were installed, all vandalism stopped. They have owned cameras for six years,” Parker said. “North Augusta has also had good experience with this system.”

Captain Stubblefield from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department attended the meeting and weighed in on the issue. He stressed what he considered the two most important aspects of a camera security system.

“It’s about how much time it takes us to get the information from the system and start tracking someone down and start investigating,” Stubblefield said. “If we have to wait to get a manager or regional guy to come download the video, the more difficult the apprehension (of the suspect) becomes. And the most important investment for you is good cameras with good capabilities. It’s good to have a car tag number, but we have to actually id the person behind the wheel. A good camera helps us solve the crime.”

Stubblefield said it’s also an important prevention to crime to have signs saying cameras are on site.

Ross asked Parker to have staff to proceed with drafting specks for a system and have them ready for Council’s review at the May 23 Council meeting.