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Cameras at Willow Grove Park lead to 'sticker shock' for Longview Port Commission
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Cameras at Willow Grove Park lead to 'sticker shock' for Longview Port Commission

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Willow Grove beach

People scattered along the Columbia River at Willow Grove Park on Labor Day, 2020.

Additional cameras at Willow Grove Park and boat launch still are under discussion after the Port of Longview Board of Commissioners expressed “sticker shock” at the estimated price.

At a February meeting, the commissioners asked staff to come up with estimates to install 10 more cameras at the park with the potential to livestream, a cause for which Commissioner Jeff Wilson has advocated.

The board learned partial coverage would cost over half a million dollars and full coverage of the entire park with lights and cameras could cost $825,000, Director of Facilities and Engineering Bill Burton told the board Wednesday. Part of the expense is that the port would need to run electricity out to the camera locations, he said.

Wilson said while it seems expensive, the port is currently reviewing safety in its master strategic plan and “this is the only place we interact with the public.”

Commission President Allan Erickson said the “sticker shock blew my head off when I saw those numbers.”

“I have no interest in spending that kind of money to catch somebody after the fact,” he said, adding that cameras will not stop anyone from committing crimes.

Commissioner Doug Averett said he “can’t imagine us spending that kind of money” and thought three to five cameras without livestreaming was more reasonable.

Wilson said even after the fact, cameras offer families and park users “the assurance of accountability.”

“We owe it to the community to improve the experience rather than concede that bad people will have bad behaviors,” Wilson said.

The two current cameras at the boat launch have been used in the past to help law enforcement identify suspects, Burton said in response to a question from Averett.

Burton said another option was to spend $30,000 to $50,000 to do a scope of work for adding more cameras to the boat launch area, since Willow Grove Park is gated and locked at night and has security during the day, while the boat launch is open 24/7.

Wilson said he would prefer to go out to bid for 11 infrared cameras with the capability to livestream like WDOT traffic cameras to see what companies might offer in a competitive bid process.

Erickson said he did not want livestreaming, saying the idea that anyone could watch a family having a picnic at the park “frightening” and too “Big Brother” for him.

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The commission did not take action, instead planning to have a further discussion at a later meeting to define what they would like to see at the park.

Master plan

The final section of the port master plan was also up for a first edit Wednesday. Commissioners reviewed goals for Internal Resources and discussed adding a safety subsection to that section of the plan.

Makers consultant Julie Bassuk said over the next few years, there may be a gap between port revenue and what the port wants to spend on capital projects. She said commissioners would need to find more outside funding, more revenue or develop plans if the projections hold true.

Bassuk pointed out that if the port raised taxes to the full allowable level, it could collect another $6.8 million in revenue, but Wilson pushed back against raising tax rates.

The commissioners all agreed on the goal of identifying funding to support strategic business plan goals and strategies.

Strategies they discussed to do so included considering “all reasonable funding methods” including bonds, grants, partnerships and property taxes; identifying the highest priority initiatives; and establishing a policy and process to vet potential investments and projects.

The commissioners also agreed that adding a specific safety section was needed, because historically it had been addressed in multiple departments.

KPFF consultant Ellis Beckwith said that with growth in rail and vehicle traffic, there were increased safety concerns and suggested working to develop and update safety plans, have more proactive planning and more staff training.

Philadelphia-based International Raw Materials President Tip O’Neill said he wanted to see more collaboration on safety between the port and its tenants. IRM leases Berths 1 and 2 from the port.

“You’re not necessarily running a port, you’re running a rail yard,” he told the commissioners. “Rail safety efforts are not joined at hip like they should be. I’d ask you to encourage staff to work with tenants and make sure we’re all working to the same standards.”

He said he’d seen more than a dozen “near-misses” at the port and pointed to the 2018 incident when Lineman Byron Jacobs was killed by a snapped line as evidence for why safety needs to be improved: “We don’t want to go back over to the fairgrounds again for yet another memorial.”

Chief mate injured by snapped line at port died Thursday

Port CEO Dan Stahl said safety was a daily effort and “every day we continue to put our shoulder to it.” The commissioners agreed to add shareholder and client input and improvement opportunities as a goal to the new safety section.

“Safety is not an internal responsibility, it’s a community responsibility,” Wilson said.

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