Clayton plans to add camera, speaker system

In May, cones and solar-powered lights stood in place of power poles that had been removed along James Street and Riverside Drive as part of an ongoing project in downtown Clayton. The removed power poles carried the village’s former municipal public address system, which is being replaced with a wireless system in December. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

CLAYTON — The village will soon be installing a new camera and speaker system around its downtown corridor, a new aspect of the revitalization of the Clayton historic district.

At the Sept. 27 meeting of the village Board of Trustees, officials authorized the $110,000 project, which will see 25 speakers installed along Riverside Drive and up James Street. The main project cost is $106,000 with another $4,000 for Development Authority of the North Country oversight.

A series of 10 cameras will be installed around the downtown area, focused along the Riverwalk and Riverside Drive area.

The cameras and speakers will be connected wirelessly via a mesh network, where each device connects together via a wireless network, to chain together a much wider physical space than traditional wireless connections allow.

The devices will likely be connected to power through the buildings they’re attached to, and village Mayor Norma J. Zimmer said the village is still working on whether it will need to offer host buildings a small stipend for the use of their electricity.

The main hub for the systems will be located at the Rotary Park dockmasters building.

“This replaces the system we had before, which had speakers on the poles downtown,” Mayor Zimmer said. “Those came down with the poles, and we’ve been talking about a different solution for a while now.”

The camera systems will connect with the village police department, which Mayor Zimmer said is a benefit as the village doesn’t have an officer on duty every hour of the day.

The project is entirely financed by money left in the contingency fund from the village’s historic district renovation project. Mayor Zimmer said while $110,000 is a significant sum, the system they’re purchasing will provide audio and security service for many years to come.

“We won’t have to pay for a new system for a very long time now,” she said. “I’m excited, this is a good thing for the village.”

Some people in Clayton have expressed concern about the project, including town councilman Allen D. Heberling and Paul Luck, spokesman and lead member for the Clayton Financial Oversight Group, an informal citizens group that pushes for financial transparency.

Both men said the money could be used for other things, or not at all to reduce future costs. Mr. Heberling suggested it be used to remove the remaining utility poles around downtown Clayton, including outside the front of the Lyric Cafe on James Street.

Both Mr. Luck and Mr. Heberling have expressed concern about the village’s process for authorizing this expansion to the downtown renovation project. They argue a project of its size and cost should have gone through the typical municipal bidding process, where village officials advertise for and encourage competitive bids from businesses interested in performing the work, to get the best possible price.

“There are guidelines from the office of the state comptroller that say, for projects over $35,000, they have to go out and advertise for bids, and anything below that it’s assumed a head of a department is getting local bids,” Mr. Heberling said. “$110,000 is well over the $35,000 threshold.”

The village of Clayton was recently told to shore up its bid procedures by the state comptroller, who released a report in early September detailing how the village failed to secure competitive bids more than half the time during an audit period between June 1, 2019 and Dec. 31, 2020.

But Mayor Zimmer said a competitive bid process wasn’t needed this time around. While the speaker and camera project was not specified in the original downtown renovation plans, it can be considered part of the project with a change order.

Mayor Zimmer said it’s only right to replace the speakers that were taken down with the funding for the project that took those speakers down in the first place.

“New Century was a successful bidder for the electrical work for the downtown project, so we didn’t need to go through the whole process again,” Mayor Zimmer said.

With the project officially authorized, crews are now waiting to receive the systems. Mayor Zimmer said she hopes they will be installed and activated by Dec. 4, in time for the early winter holidays.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

I write about north country politics, Jefferson County and the northern shoreline towns of Lyme, Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay

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