In a 5-1-1 vote at its April 21 meeting, the DeForest Village Board approved for President Judd Blau to execute a contract with Visual Labs, Inc. for body-worn cameras and recording services to the police department.
The initial startup cost, without installation and training, is $13,512 according to Police Chief James Olson. Adding a three-day Quick Start Package to train staff on use of the system adds an additional $3,840, making the total cost around $17,000.
This system will replace the current Arbitrator system that is five years old and Olson said that after those five years, it is showing signs of aging technology. He added that the new system adds a layer of accountability to the department.
“The body camera will capture interactions when members are away from their vehicle and the connection between a portable microphone and the vehicle is lost,” said Olson. “It will provide evidence on criminal investigations and become a risk-management toll for the department.
Trustee Abigail Lowry asked if footage was available for public record and who has access to see the footage.
Olson said everything is public record and access is open to all of the department, and available for investigators to use for potential court cases.
Newly appointed trustee Bill Landgraf voted no and Jason Kramer abstained.
Information regarding new in-car cameras is still being researched.
The board unanimously approved Director of Public Service Kelli Bialkowski to submit an application to the DNR for financial aid for the splash pad construction. The village had a contest at an open house in late February and carried over onto Facebook to pick a theme between forest, wetland and garden. The winner was forest with 49 percent of the votes.
The construction and submittal of a splash pad has been included in the 2020-21 Capital Improvement Plan. As an update, the CIP contemplates a grant award of $50,000 on a $400,000 project. DNR staff was encouraged to ask for 50 percent or $200,000.
The village will know by August if it is given the grant. If awarded, the project will begin in the summer or fall of 2021, later than the anticipated spring 2021 beginning. If not awarded, the project will start in spring of 2021.
The board unanimously approved to amend the 2020 village operating budget and general debt service fund budget.
In other news, a discussion took place regarding a drainage swale on the property located at 500 Brule Parkway. The resident has asked several board members if the village will properly fix the swale to prevent water from building up on his property.
Public Works Supervisor Greg Hall said that it’s about a foot-wide trench.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a swale,” Hall said, adding that it’s also 12-feet long.
Hall said it was made around 2005, shortly after he started with the village. Public works was asked to dig a trench and that’s what they did.
The owner has stated to board members that since the village dug it up, they should do the upkeep, too, according to Village President Judd Blau.
Village Attorney Al Reuter said that it’s “not on us to upkeep it,” when the question was asked.
Blau then made a motion to have staff members contacted by the homeowner to reply that it’s not village responsibility. The motion was unanimously approved.
“It’s either his property or his neighbors. We don’t have the authority to do anything here,” Blau said. “It’s his property and it’s his responsibility to maintain.”
Also, the DeForest Windsor Chamber of Commerce was seeking approval by the village board for the two-day July 4th Celebration at Fireman’s Park.
Village Clerk LuAnn Leggett said they are seeking approval only if the “Safer at Home” order is lifted by that time.
The event will be from 6 p.m. to midnight on Friday, July 3 and from 9:30 a.m. to midnight on Saturday, July 4. The board unanimously approved the application for use of the park and surrounding areas.
On Friday, April 24, state libraries were able to begin providing curb-side pickup. It was an idea that was brought to Blau’s attention by Kramar. Blau then took it to the League of Wisconsin Municipalities meeting and asked about it.
As part of Governor Evers’ Badger Bounce Back plan, it came to fruition. For DeForest it is “a great resource available for residents to take advantage of,” according to Blau.
“It shows that if we bring things forward, we have a chance to make an impact,” he said.
Village updates on COVID-19
The DeForest Police Department is still operating at full staff, but Chief Olson separated the force in half. Olson leads one team and a lieutenant leads the other to cut down on lead staff being in the building at the same time.
Everybody on the police force works seven days in a row — approximately 75 hours per week — then has seven days off.
Olson said the department is still patrolling trail and other areas, looking for potential “Safer at Home” violations.
“We’re not seeing an uptick in domestic violence calls, like others in the state are seeing, but we are seeing an uptick in mental health calls,” Olson said, as people have been stuck at home for over a month.
He concluded that everyone on staff is healthy and that the department has a good supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Bialkowski said that, like the police department, public works has been split into two crews, with a mixture of departments in both groups. It’s the best way to minimize staff exposure to COVID-19, while still providing the essential service to the village.
Projects have now been separated into three categories: critical (anything water related), medium (brush clean up) and non-essential. Bialkowski said that while all projects get done, this creates a hierarchy to put the essential projects at the top of list currently.
Village Zoning Administrator Brandi Cooper said everything is going on as usual and that most applications for permits are being done digitally. Building inspections are still happening, but Cooper leaves the final decision of whether to move forward with inspections up to the individual inspector.
She added that Advanced Disposal has suspended pickups, which has led to furniture staying at the curb around the village. She sends letters to the individual homeowners letting them know of the suspended service and to have them move the furniture closer to the house or in garages.
“Hopefully that will curb so much stuff sitting at the curb,” Cooper said.
Earlier in the meeting, she also noted that based on the first quarter from 2019, the village is at $2.2 million less in estimated value.
What Cooper has seen an uptick in is people applying for various smaller building permits.
“Everybody is at home and everybody has a project they want to do,” Cooper said.