City officials Tuesday approved installing a camera security system at the RiverWalk at Head of Falls in downtown Waterville. The park has seen many acts of vandalism and other illegal activity that officials say are costing the city thousands of dollars. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

WATERVILLE — The City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to buy a $41,339 security surveillance system for the RiverWalk at Head of Falls to help reduce vandalism, increase public safety and identify and apprehend those who vandalize the area and engage in other illegal activities.

Councilors voted on one order and two resolutions as part of the RiverWalk surveillance system request. Councilors voted 7-0 to accept a $30,000 donation from Colby College to go toward the purchase of the system from Griffon Security Technologies, a Kennebunk company that also installed a security system at City Hall. The council must take two votes to accept that donation, and could take only one vote Tuesday.

Councilors voted 6-1, with Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, dissenting, to spend $11,339 from the Police Department’s drug forfeiture fund for the remainder needed to buy the surveillance system. The council voted 6-1, with Foss again the lone dissenter, to approve buying the system from Griffon.

Mayor Jay Coelho reiterated what he has said in the past — that he opposes the idea of installing cameras in public places. He said he hopes the cameras do what city officials think they will do, but he is doubtful.

“I still don’t like the cameras down there,” he said.

Foss concurred, saying, “I do not like cameras watching people’s every move.”


Ward 4 resident Elizabeth Leonard asked what options, other than installing cameras, had been considered to address the problem at the RiverWalk.

Police Chief Joseph Massey said he has increased patrols at RiverWalk, conducted targeted patrols and had officers patrol the area in plain clothes, but the illegal activity continues. He said the RiverWalk is a jewel and one of the city’s best amenities, and people need to be able to feel safe there.

“Overall, I think it’s a good expenditure,” Massey said, “and we have done everything we can.”

Seven cameras are to be installed in five areas — at the kiosk by the Two Cent Bridge, near the entrance to Front Street, at the gazebo, in the stage area at the north end of the RiverWalk and at the farmers’ market parking lot.

Police dispatchers will be able to see activity at the RiverWalk, but they are busy and will not be able to watch all the time, Massey said previously. But if crime occurs there and police learn about it, officers can go through the video to try to identify those responsible.

In other matters Tuesday, the council voted 7-0 to give $50,000 in city funds to five organizations, as recommended by the city’s American Rescue Plan Act Advisory Committee. As part of the vote, Educare Central Maine is to receive $15,000; Habitat for Humanity, $3,000; Maine Children’s Home, $15,000; Waterville Area Soup Kitchen, $10,000; and Waterville Community Land Trust, $7,000.


Committee Chairperson Jennifer Johnson explained how the organizations plan to use the money, including Habitat for Humanity to supply vouchers for those needing household items, such as appliances or furnishings, to be used at its ReStore; the soup kitchen to add breakfast and to-go meals; and the land trust to help people perform house repairs that, if left undone, would make their homes uninhabitable.

“It is to keep people in their homes,” Johnson said.

Councilors also voted Tuesday to extend for a year a contract with WasteZero for purple disposal bags. They also voted to renew a contract with Ecomaine for recycling services.

Coelho, City Manager Steve Daly and some councilors said the city plans to evaluate in the coming year all options for solid waste disposal.

The council voted to approve a Federal Aviation Administration grant amendment that would add $19,000 to an original FAA grant to the city for $332,000, to be used for crack sealing and repainting of traffic markings on runways, aprons and a taxiway at the city-owned Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport. Daly said the FAA is paying for the entire $6 million taxiway project.

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