Utilities dept. boosts security, may add additional cameras

SALEM –The Salem Utilities Commission plans to pursue video surveillance for utility building locations off of Second Street and South Ellsworth Avenue in response to the theft of a utility department truck last month.

Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart updated the commission on the status of the truck, which was recovered and is currently being repaired. The 2017 GMC Sierra extended cab 3/4-ton pickup with four-wheel drive and a plow attached went missing the weekend of Jan. 19 and 20 after someone broke open the gate surrounding the Second Street property and busted into the locked building. All in all, damages totaled over $20,000. The truck and plow were both recovered and suspects were taken into custody.

The estimated damages for the truck and plow totaled $11,966, minus a $1,000 deductible for the insurance, bringing the total to $10,966. For the buildings at the Second Street location where the truck had been parked inside and items stolen, the cost totaled $7,274, with a large part of that cost from replacing the door openers on all the garge doors and having the codes reprogrammed and replacing testing equipment that had been in the truck. There was another bill of $1,340 to replace fencing and the gate which had been busted open.

“What procedures have been changed to stem this from happening again?” Commission Chair Bob Hodgson said.

Weingart said keys are no longer kept in the vehicles, vehicles are in a locked room and all the locks have been changed at the shop on Second Street. They also had to get new garage door openers and have the codes reprogrammed. He also said there are plans to limit access to the buildings from other departments, except for the fire department, and stress the need to close doors and keep everything locked. Just recently, a garage door was found open.

General foreman Terry Endsley of the distribution department said they’re getting better lighting, too, but agreed with Hodgson that video surveillance would be a deterrent. Cameras would at least give the department a view of what’s going on. Both the water plant and the wastewater treatment plants have video surveillance systems.

Weingart was instructed to pursue the idea of video surveillance for the other buildings.

Hodgson also offered kudos to the Salem Police Department for getting the situation with the truck resolved so quickly. He wasn’t expecting to ever see the truck again let alone get it back.

In other business, Hodgson talked about the retirement of longtime employee Tim Rininger, who worked for the department 41 years and was the chief operator at the wastewater treatment plant. He said he was always dependable, offered great instruction to co-workers and seldom missed a day of work. The commission and the department appreciated his service.

“We’re gonna miss you pal,” Hodgson said.

Some concern was expressed about timing for the Franklin Street water and sewer line replacement projects. Weingart said the tentative date for submitting the design to the state of Ohio for approval isn’t until April 26 and the concern is the length of time the state has been taking to make decisions on plans. The plan is to have the project completed by Sept. 13 to give the city time to repave the street, which is slated for this year.

When asked if the engineering schedule could be pushed up, Weingart said probably not. The bidding is slated for June and it’s going to be a tight schedule.