Requests made for cameras and zoning changes


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE — The City of Greenville is inching closer to having its officers wear body cameras, but the city council will need to decide if it wants to spend nearly $150,000 to equip all of its officers and cruisers with Axon cameras.

Lt. Douglas Flanery addressed Greenville City Council on Tuesday and recommended the city purchase body cameras. The city currently has Motorola’s Watchdog cameras in its cruisers, but the cameras are beginning to age and the department is having issues with some of the cameras. He suggested they switch to Axon for body cameras and cruiser cameras.

According to Flanery, if the city were to go with Motorola, the cameras would be nearly $170,000. The cost for Axon body cameras is nearly half that at $85,000. Purchasing cruiser cameras from Axon would push the total cost to $146,368. This includes the ability to upload cruiser camera video to the cloud, as well as an editing program for the body cameras in order to blur video for things such as nudity or children in a home. Since the department already uses Axon tasers, they can upgrade the battery to a Bluetooth battery and whenever a taser is drawn, all Axon cameras within 50 feet will automatically turn on.

Flanery said the department has applied for a grant through the state that could pay the entire cost of the body cameras, if they are awarded the grant. However, if they don’t receive the grant, he believes the city should still invest in the system. Not only do body cameras and cruiser cameras help in prosecuting criminals, but it also protects police officers. He pointed to several instances when an officer has been accused of being rude or acting inappropriately and they have been able to review the video to determine if the accusation was warranted or false.

There is interest-free financing available over five years to make the yearly payments more affordable for the city, if that’s what they choose to do.

Law Director Michael Rieman gave his endorsement of purchasing body cameras for the officers. “Speaking as the law director, I highly recommend we move forward with the body cameras as soon as possible. As Lt. Flanery said, we find that it helps us out far more than to the detriment of the city. For that, I would ask that we move forward with them with or without the grant.”

City council will need to make a decision prior to Dec. 31. According to Flanery, the current quote is only good until then and it’s possible the price will increase after that date.

Geoff Surber also addressed Greenville City Council and urged them to take a look at their zoning. He showed there is over 152.51 acres of undeveloped land with approximately 140 acres currently zoned General Business. After praising Council President John Baumgardner and Mike Jones for fixing up buildings, Surber said, “It takes more than just fixing up buildings to invigorate a town. We need to open new growth that can’t effectively occur without changing zoning.”

Surber shared the census has shown Versailles and Arcanum are witnessing growth over the past two decades at 2.8 percent and 11.5 percent, respectively. Greenville, however, has seen a decline in population at –5.3 percent. “I think that can be attributed to Versailles and Arcanum have approached housing growth aggressively, which Greenville has yet to. I hope everyone can agree on that.” He explained those governments are big on cooperation.

Surber explained the approximate 140 acres of land zoned General Business would be the equivalent of over eight Walmarts or 17 Krogers worth of retail space. “I think we can all understand we are not going to get eight more Krogers, we’re not going to get six Menards. There’s no way to consume all that land in just General Business. Because of that, I think there should be some open-mindedness in changing zoning.” Surber said he has talked with Menards and tried to get them to come to Greenville. “Their issue was, they did not see growth,” he said.

Although the cost for materials, whether you build on the south or north end of Greenville, costs the same, “on the north end, the public, the people seem to think there’s a greater chance for appreciation, a greater chance for wealth preservation. And you can do that by looking at sales on Zillow. For this reason, it doesn’t make sense to restrict the zoning to General Business zoning,” said Surber.

He brought up the issue of rezoning a portion of State Route 121 to clear the way for senior housing. He pointed out the empty parcel at present may give the city $20 a year.

Later in the meeting, Councilman Brian Brown moved to approve Planning & Zoning’s recommendation to rezone the parcel on State Route 121 North from General Business to Planned Unit Development. Because of the absence of Councilman Doug Schmidt, Council President Baumgardner was forced to vote due to a three-to-three tie. Councilmen Brown, Clarence Godwin and Leon Rogers voted in favor of the recommendation. Councilpersons Jeff Whitaker, Chris Norris and Delores Eley voted against. In a previous meeting Baumgardner expressed he was opposed to rezoning the parcel because “as a landlord,” he felt it was difficult to find good tenants and thought the senior housing would take away the good tenants from the landlords. He voted against the motion.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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