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City Council voted Tuesday night to amend the city budget to include a grant that will be used to purchase 26 body-worn cameras for police officers. The new cameras will replace out-of-date units.
All police officers and investigators wear them daily mounted on their chests. The Police Department began experimenting with body cameras for its officers in 2005, and its officers have been wearing them since 2014 — before the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
To purchase the new cameras, the Police Department has received an award from the Department of Criminal Justice Services under the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. Local matching funds of $1,499 are required and will be taken from state drug seizure funds in possession of the Police Department.
The objective of this project is to provide 26 body-worn cameras and three charging/uploading stations to replace aging and out-of-date units that are currently deployed. The updated cameras have significantly improved audio/video recording capabilities and extended battery life.
In other matters last night, City Council voted to update to its natural hazard mitigation plan. The plan must be updated every five years in order to receive certain federal disaster assistance. Earlier this year, the West Piedmont Planning District Commission hired a consulting firm to update this plan.
The major issues facing the Danville area are storm related, such as snow, ice and flooding.
In addition to these votes, City Council held a first reading on a budget amendment to utilize $5.4 million bond proceeds for various projects, including nearly $2.2 million for Public Schools.
In addition to the schools, the bonds will be used for general government projects as follows:
A first reading is an introductory step required by City code before certain matters can be voted upon by City Council. This step serves to provide public notice of pending action. Council could not vote on the budget amendment Tuesday. The earliest vote that can take place will be the Jan. 3 City Council meeting.
Mayor John Gilstrap presented Danville/Pittsylvania Habitat for Humanity with a certificate of recognition for its 25th anniversary. has built 38 new homes, restored five homes, and provided opportunity for shelter for approximately 200 people in the area.
“It is the mission of Danville/Pittsylvania Habitat for Humanity to continue building houses and communities of hope for years to come,” Gilstrap said. “I extend special thanks to the Danville/Pittsylvania Habitat for Humanity for their services to the community over the past 25 years and wish them continued success in the future.”
Laurie Moran, president and chief executive of the Danville/Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce, presented a report that showed 1,892 jobs are open in the region. This number is a 96 percent increase in identified job openings from a year ago.
The chamber also identified 62 employers who utilized the services of the Virginia Workforce Center; sponsored or co-sponsored seven workshops that had a workforce focus; promoted employer support for the Certified Work Ready Community initiative; and convened quarterly meetings with 25 workforce agencies and organizations in Danville and Pittsylvania County to promote better communication and collaboration.
Council's meeting included a business session followed by a work session. In work sessions, Council reviews non-routine matters that will be voted upon in future business meetings.
In Tuesday’s work session, City Council agreed to schedule a vote on a recommendation from the Danville Utility Commission to adopt a hybrid fee model that would waive transaction fees when customers pay their utility bills online by credit cards and debit cards. Fees for echeck payments would drop from $2 to $1 per transaction under this model.
Also in the work session, City Council discussed alternatives for refinancing Industrial Development Authority bonds, reviewed monthly financial statements and the City’s financial audit, and held a closed meeting as allowed by state law to personnel matters.
River City TV airs live all Council business sessions. The first rebroadcast will be at 8 p.m. Thursday. Watch it on cable (Comcast channel 10 and Gamewood channel 122). The taped broadcast is available now on the City’s YouTube channel -- DanvilleVAGov.
River City TV does not air work sessions, but they are open to the public.