Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Council adds police cameras to Minneapolis budget

Money also was added for an adoption program for bully breed dogs.

Update, 3:30 p.m.: At Thursday afternoon’s budget session, Minneapolis City Council members found money already available to add two more operators for 911 services. As a result, they will not have to cut 311 staff and will go ahead with adding Saturday service next year.

There will be money for cop video cameras and the adoption of bully breed dogs, Minneapolis City Council members decided during a Wednesday work session on next year’s city budget.

They’re still uncertain, though, about proposals to cut two 311 operators and add two 911 operators.

Mayor R.T. Rybak has proposed a $1.119 billion budget, an increase of 2.2 percent, or $24.5 million.

Article continues after advertisement

Police Chief Janee Harteau has convened a working group to develop a plan for police officers’ use of small video cameras and how the camera data will be stored. The material gathered by the on-person cameras is considered evidence and, as such, comes under precise rules for storage and access.

The 2014 budget will include $400,000 for the purchase of cameras and related equipment. The money is available from the General Fund because a scheduled transfer to the Self Insurance Fund will not be needed.

“We’re in a much better position in the Self Insurance Fund, and with recent projections for the year, find that we don’t need the extensive transfer,” said Sandy Christensen of the Finance Department.

“What this does is make sure that when and if the program is ready to move forward there are dollars available in 2014,” said Council Member and Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges, who chairs the Ways and Means/Budget Committee.

The complete cost of purchasing the video cameras could require the addition of an estimated $250,000, depending on the decisions by Chief Harteau’s working group.

The move to add two 911 operators by cutting two 311 operators — a $166,000 decision — ran into trouble when council members were reluctant to cut 311 service, which is scheduled to expand from five days a week to six in 2014.

“311 is the most innovative program we’ve done,” said Rybak, defending his budget proposal to add Saturday service.

“The [911] calls aren’t getting answered fast enough on our busiest nights,” said Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy, who proposed the change in funding.

The goal of the 911 programs nationwide is to have 90 percent of calls answered within 10 seconds. Minneapolis’ current rate is 81 percent.

Article continues after advertisement

Rybak insisted that the problem with 911 is a management problem that will not be solved with two more operators. The committee delayed action until Thursday afternoon’s session.

The committee approved an $8.9 million transfer from the Capital Asset Request System, which allows departments to make requests outside of their budget. Most of the money, $5.9 million, will be spent on software. There is also $25,000 in the fund for a new server needed by the Minneapolis Television Network.

The council earlier approved a plan to evaluate the temperament of dogs at Minneapolis Animal Care and Control to determine if they are eligible for adoption. Previously all “bully” breeds were automatically eliminated from the adoption program.

The committee voted to add $50,000 to the MACC budget to pay for the dog evaluations.

In other budget action, funds from the sale of the city-owned Gaviidae property on Nicollet Mall will be allocated to preliminary engineering for the Nicollet/Central Avenue streetcar line for a total of $2.7 million.

The committee turned down a request to spend $30,000 for a city membership on the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board, which works to preserve the scenic and historic elements of the downtown riverfront.

The committee is expected to conclude its budget work at Thursday’s session. The final public hearing — and subsequent budget vote — is scheduled for Dec. 11 at 6:05 p.m.