Council receives various city updates

SIDNEY — City Council received several updates, Monday, on the police department’s survey results and new body cameras, the city’s summer recreation programs and water park, and from Sidney Alive.

Police Chief Will Balling presented to council the department’s Citizen Community Survey results and information about the new body cameras all patrol officers will begin wearing on Sept. 5.

Balling said the police survey’s intent was to obtain the public’s perception of the city, its police officers and department. They wanted honest feedback to understand how the department can improve.

Although they received mostly positive feedback and had enough responses for an accurate reflection of the community’s perspective, Balling said he did not think the results accurately represents the full spectrum of Sidney. Based on Sidney’s size, they needed to obtain at least 377 responses to get an accurate sample from the community; they collected 412. However, he said, they did not hear much from those of lower income levels and races other than Caucasians. He noted you can only ask people to take a survey.

Overall, Balling said the report indicated that the community believes the police department provides good service and feels safe in Sidney. There was a direct correlation of responses between crime victims feeling less safe, which he said was understandable. The survey also showed areas where the department needs improvement, such as citizens’ dissatisfaction about contact with the police. The report notes that although most encounters with police are regarding negative situations, this feedback is problematic and they will strive to consistently exceed the community’s expectations.

The full 34-page report will be available at the Sidney YMCA, Amos Memorial Library, and the Senior Center, as well as on the city’s website for review.

Balling also presented information about and wore on display, Monday night, one of the department’s new body cameras. Beginning Sept. 5, all patrol officers and investigators will be wearing a body camera.

“The department would like to promote accountability and transparency in police/citizen interaction through the use of body worn camera,” Balling said was the goal of the cameras.

In 2016, the department applied for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant for funding, and was selected by the Office of Criminal Justice to receive $23,061 from the state of Ohio. The total cost of the project, with a server for storage of the videos, is approximately $67,000.

The cameras will automatically be activated when a police cruiser’s lights are activated or from an officer’s initiation. Balling warned not all activity will be able to be captured since the cameras will be attached to the chest area of the police officer’s uniform. The hope is for the cameras to help better train officers and reduce of deescalate negative confrontational situations.

Balling said videos will be stored according to the police department’s record retention policy and will have a random review of videos by a supervisor to ensure they are meeting the department’s mission and vision statements.

The Parks and Recreations Department Recreation Specialist Jennie Rogers gave council a presentation about the city’s summer recreation programs held at eight parks in town. She said the summer lunch program attendance was down this year compared to 2016 by 1,151 children. Rogers said she thinks there was less need this year because of the increase of the economy.

This year, Rogers said, the pool closed 10 days, due to rain, and closed early six days. The rain caused their over profits to be down. The pool yielded $10,419.69 less and the concession stand made $3,238.64 less than last year. However, swimming lessons were up this year, with 267 participants versus 227 in 2016.

Sidney Alive Executive Director Amy Breinich gave a presentation about the organization’s work in the downtown. Breinich said their strategic planning is set very closely to the city’s comprehensive plan. The downtown, she said, is a visual representation of the community and is a place for people to connect.

The organization’s goal is to encourage economic development in Sidney, Breinich said. Also, they aim to contribute to the cultural well-being of the community, seek to improve quality of life and encourage patronage of hotels, restaurants and businesses in Sidney, she said.

When Council member Ed Hamaker asked Breinich what two major projects needs done downtown, she said help for property owners for special improvements through possibly low interest or revolving loans, and signage to direct people where businesses are located in town.

During a call for public comments, Robert Wooddell, a resident of Brooklyn Avenue, voiced his concern about vehicles traveling at “excessive speed” on his street. He asked if the two current speed limit signs could be moved for drivers to be better aware of the speed limit. He said one of the signs would be better placed where vehicles travel up a hill on the road to see the sign. He also mentioned moving the other sign from to different location coming from the north.

Mayor Mike Barhorst said it seems to him that the signs can be moved, but the city would need to look into where would be the best spot to moved them.

Diane Wolaver, also a Brooklyn Avenue resident, asked Balling if the body cameras can be used in court for people to prove their innocence. She also asked where the police survey can be obtained as it was the first time she had heard about the survey. Balling told her the videos can be used by either the prosecutor of the defense. He said anyone can subpoena a copy of the video as evidence for either side. Balling explained the department didn’t have the man power to go door to door, but the survey was available on online or people could have called-in to complete it. Also, he said hard copies were at the Senior Center of Sidney-Shelby County, the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA, Amos Memorial Public Library, local churches and metropolitan housing.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.