Marietta Council OKs more 7th, Pike legislation

Two pieces of legislation that will advance the $2 million-plus pedestrian and traffic safety project at Marietta’s Seventh, Pike and Greene streets intersection were approved during a special city council session Thursday.

The first ordinance authorized a $265,730 change order for W.E. Stilson to complete final design and engineering for the project.

That figure includes $212,584 funding from Ohio Department of Transportation safety funds, and a local match of $53,146, said Councilman Denver Abicht, D-at large, who chairs the streets and transportation committee.

“We have to pass this legislation now because a notice to proceed has to be issued no later than April 15 to keep the project on track,” he said.

A second ordinance approved $34,435 for Transystems of Columbus to provide right-of-way acquisition services for the intersection project.

“There will be six parcels of right-of-way that have to be negotiated for the project, and the total $34,435 will be paid directly from ODOT,” Abicht said.

River cameras

Also on Thursday, Marietta Police Officer and computer system specialist Rhett Walters requested approval from council’s police and fire committee to accept a 100 percent Homeland Security grant of $33,878 to provide a river camera surveillance system in the Marietta area.

“We originally applied for this funding in 2009 and 2010, but just recently learned that we’ve been awarded the grant,” Walters said. “FEMA, in conjunction with the Huntington Port Tri-State Authority, has awarded federal tax dollars to help communities within the port to police and monitor the waterways.”

The Huntington Port Tri-state, extending along the Ohio River from south of Huntington, W.Va., to just north of the Willow Island Dam between Marietta and Newport, is the largest inland port in the U.S.

Walters noted Marietta has already received federal funding through the Huntington Port for the city’s new fire and police boats.

Those vessels cost around $600,000.

Walters said the city is receiving the federal money because Marietta is located near the northernmost extent of the Huntington Port where local authorities can assist the U.S. Coast Guard maintain port security in the event of terrorist activities.

He noted the Mid-Ohio Valley’s industries could be considered potential terrorist targets.

The river surveillance system includes four high-tech cameras. A server for the system will be installed at Lookout Park.

Walters said the cameras would likely be located on the I-77 bridge and Washington Street Bridge, at the Lafayette Hotel, and somewhere near the Ohio River along Ohio 7. He said the exact locations would have to be determined later.

“We can also piggyback the city’s current surveillance cameras onto this system,” Walters said.

Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, expressed some concern about the installation of the Huntington Port surveillance cameras.

“It seems like we’re putting cameras everywhere,” he said. “I have a problem with someone watching everything we do.”

Walters said the surveillance system is strictly for law enforcement and homeland security purposes.

“These are very high resolution cameras and are to help provide security for the Huntington Port,” he said. “And the Port Authority will have the ability to see what’s going on here by using these cameras.”

Walters said video from the system would only be viewable by authorities with proper security clearance.

Vukovic asked who would be responsible to maintain the system once it is installed, but Walters said the grant documents did not address that issue.

“We need to know what our responsibilities will be before I can vote on this,” he said.

Walters said he would try to obtain that information.

Marietta Police Chief Brett McKitrick cautioned council members that the Huntington Port would need an answer soon.

“We were just notified last week that the grant was approved,” he said. “And we have to be ready to accept the money by May 1.”