Monday, March 20, 2023

Behind schedule and over budget, Virginia Beach police ask for more money for Oceanfront cameras

The Virginia Beach Police Department is a year behind and $800,000 over budget for their Oceanfront surveillance camera project. (File photo)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Despite being a year behind schedule and $800,000 over budget, the Virginia Beach Police Department has begun taking the first step toward installing high-tech surveillance cameras at the Oceanfront.

The project was originally planned in three phases that would outfit the Oceanfront with 88 high-definition surveillance cameras by 2018; however, engineering issues and unforeseen expenses have forced the VBPD to break down the first leg of the work into two new phases — one of which is still unfunded.

“I wasn’t aware of it. I had no idea,” Mayor Will Sessoms said at a Sept. 26 Virginia Beach City Council meeting. “I thought it was already done.”

The project was originally estimated to cost a total of $7.3 million over three years. That money was allotted out of a 30-cent personal property tax increase implemented in July 2014, according to the Virginia Beach budget archives.

In July 2014, the city approved $2.6 million for “phase one” of the Oceanfront surveillance camera project. That money was to pay for 25 new cameras that would usher in a new realm of technology for the VBPD, replacing 19 existing surveillance cameras with equipment that offers a better range of motion and clearer zoom.

But three years after the money was approved, the city still isn’t equipped with those cameras because of delays from a former engineering consultant who is no longer working on the project and the expensive and complicated process of digging “test pits,” which are required by the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act.

Test pits help engineers gauge where a new equipment — like poles for surveillance cameras — can be installed without damaging existing underground utilities, said city engineer Mark Johnson.

“The resort area is a very dense underground utility area,” Johnson said.

In an effort to make progress, the VBPD had to break down “phase one” of the Oceanfront surveillance project into two separate work orders.

The first work order, which began on Labor Day, is scheduled to be complete in January 2018 with the installation of 14 surveillance cameras that will cover areas east of Pacific Avenue, including the Boardwalk and Atlantic Avenue, Cervera said.

If that installation is completed as planned, it will eat up the remainder of the $2.6 million that was budgeted for all 25 cameras. Some of that money was spent on extra camera licenses, an upgrade to the VBPD’s second precinct camera room and new hardware.

The second work order, which will install the remaining 11 cameras west of Pacific Avenue, is scheduled to be finished in April of 2018 — the only problem is, there’s no money in the budget for the work.

That’s why the VBPD is seeking approval for an additional $800,000 which would pay for the installation of the remaining 11 cameras that were planned in “phase one.” That cost will include engineering costs and a 15 percent contingency fund.

The VBPD is suggesting the $800,000 come in part from the city’s public safety equipment replacement project and in part from extra funding left over from the fourth phase of the Princess Anne Road project.

Virginia Beach City Council is slated to approve or deny that request on Tuesday.

“We got to get it done,” Sessoms said.

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