The Onalaska Common Council voted Tuesday night to approve the purchase of a $15,700 surveillance camera system to be installed in the city hall.

The measure was pulled from the consent agenda for individual consideration by the board early in the meeting.

City Administrator Eric Rindfleisch said the purchase of the cameras was to improve surveillance in areas where money is handled and customers interact with city employees.

Areas under surveillance would include, desks with cash drawers, counters, where cash is counted, in addition to bug-eye cameras located at the exits to the building.

“The request is to provide minimal security,” Rindfleisch said adding he believed the cameras would allow the city to at a minimum get a face in the case of an incident.

Onalaska City Administrator Eric Rindfleisch

Rindfleisch

Council member Ron Gjertsen asked if footage from the cameras would be public record and made available to the public.

“Taxpayers are concerned that things are going on within city hall,” he said. “They would like to know if this would be public record and could be accessed.”

City Attorney Sean O’Flaherty confirmed the footage would be public record but assured Gjertsen that the council could set a reasonable period to hold onto the footage.

Council Member Bob Muth said the cameras were a way to protect the city from both theft and fraud.

He said the times have changed and people are staging falls and other acts to defraud their employers.

“We are seeing more crimes solved with video,“ he said. “I think we need to protect city property.”

Council member Jerry Every said as he understood the request, additional cameras would be added as needed.

“This would not be a one-time program,” he said.

The council unanimously approved the purchase of the cameras.

Snowmobile crossing

A snowmobile crossing at Hwy. 35 and Oak Forest Drive up for renewal caught Every’s attention. He expressed concern with the safety of the crossing at such a busy intersection.

The measure was discussed in detail during last week’s Board of Public Works meeting.

At that meeting, City Engineer Jarrod Holter said neither the department of transportation nor Police Chief Jeffery Trotnic saw any problems with renewing the trail or crossing.

The crossings must be renewed every year by the Common Council.

“Our mayor thinks it is something we want to foster in the city of Onalaska and I think that is true,” he said adding that he has nothing against the snowmobile trails and would not vote against the measure.

“I just don’t think that crossing on a busy highway or a busy intersection is a good idea,” he said. “It is setting us up for some liability, gentlemen.”

The trail and the crossing would be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The council voted unanimously to renew the crossing.

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Tobias Mann is a reporter with the River Valley Media Group. He can be reached at tobias.mann@lee.net or at 608-791-8216.

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