Monday, July 14, 2008

UEZ Money Tapped for Cameras

The most eye-catching item on Monday’s City Council agenda (to me, anyway) was the proposal to seek $1 million in Urban Enterprise Zone funds for closed circuit cameras in the most crime-ridden parts of the downtown district.

The equipment itself will only cost $356,000. Apparently the balance will go for fiber-optic cable installation and expansion of the city’s 911 center to accommodate the new system.

Downtown cameras have been discussed for a long time. Sticking points have included where they should be placed and who should monitor them. The city-owned space in the basement of Horizons at Plainfield (formerly Tepper’s), recently refurbished for $500,000, but with no purpose yet announced, was once considered as the surveillance center. Members of the Special Improvement District board researched what other municipalities do and, as I recall, came down in favor of camera monitoring outside the police station.

Now it seems the decision is to expand upon police emergency functions.

For those who don’t know much about the Urban Enterprise Zone program, here’s a link to get caught up.

I don’t know what the current fund balance is, but I do know the past major contributors of UEZ sales tax are long gone. The main one was Macy’s, which closed here due to a bankruptcy judge‘s decision about 15 years ago. Appliance-Arama is supposed to be among the city’s biggest retailers contributing sales tax to the fund nowadays and Walgreen’s may be another.

The point is, the fund is not what it used to be and so big draw-downs must be weighed against the diminishing returns from certified retailers within the zone.

There are several other proposed uses of UEZ funds on Monday’s agenda. To see the agenda, click here.

--Bernice Paglia


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