Cameras will focus on copper thefts

by Dawn Feddersen-Poindexter
Contributing writer

The Rogers City Council has approved projects sought by Police Chief Jeff Beahen to help bring the Rogers Police Department’s technology up to date, including surveillance cameras to help catch copper thieves.

The council also discussed fiscal disparities, and gave approval to move ahead with the preliminary work to overhaul the interchange at Rogers Drive and 141st Avenue North, now that the last of the funding for the $15.5 million project is in the final stages of approval.

Police updates
The Rogers Police Department received a check in the amount of $2,675 from the Rogers Lions Club.

The money will be used to purchase a portable multi-camera surveillance system that can be placed around the city. Beahen is especially interested in targeting copper thieves, as copper theft has cost area businesses more than $300,000 in the last month.

The cameras are motion-activated, meaning that when they sense motion they send a signal to a monitoring company that can look at the cameras’ images and determine if the motion was caused by a squirrel or a thief, and contact law enforcement if need be.

“The cameras are really small. You’d never know they were there. The cellular receiver is hidden. When it goes off, it’s silent. The whole idea is to catch these people in the act,” Beahen said.

The police department also received authorization from the City Council to purchase a $59,979 records management system to replace their obsolete, cumbersome old system.

The new system will make all data available to officers right in their cars, streamline data entry, share IT and server maintenance costs with a consortium of nearly 30 local law enforcement agencies, and allow for crime mapping and email crime alerts. It will also meet new compliance standards set by the state of Minnesota that are mandated to be met by October 2013.

Fiscal disparities
In other news, City Administrator Steve Stahmer gave a presentation to the council about the impact of the Metropolitan Fiscal Disparities program and its impact on the city’s tax rate.

Under the fiscal disparities program, taxing jurisdictions in the seven-county area contribute 40 percent of the growth in commercial-industrial property tax base since 1971 into an area-wide shared pool. Shared tax base is then redistributed back to jurisdictions based on population and the value of all property relative to the metro average.

Stahmer shared in his presentation that Rogers is, by far, the largest net loser to the program, in terms of the percentage of total tax base lost to the program. In 2011, Rogers contributed nearly 20 percent of its tax base to the pool, resulting in a local tax rate that was 34.4 percent higher than it would have been without the fiscal disparities program.

Mayor Jay Bunting lamented the program’s ability to take money away from communities that are working hard to plan and build their tax base.

He pointed out, “It’s fairly telling that no other area of the United States uses a program like fiscal disparities.”

In other matters, the council approved a study of the city’s roads to provide a number for each stretch of road from 0–100 to give the city an indication of where their roads stand and when they can expect to have to invest money in them.

City Engineer Bret Weiss said, “You’re going to have a big bubble at some point because so many of the roads were built at the same time. You’ll need to save those dollars or address how you’re going to pay for that when the time comes.”

Though the study only addressed paved roads, the council also discussed a future plan for addressing the needs of gravel roads.