In an effort to cut costs and perfect the parking system in municipal lots, the East Hampton Village Board is considering using video to track the amount of time cars park in the lots and distribute tickets to those who stay too long.
The village police department is looking into the technology of live stream video camera system with character recognition for reading the license plates of cars that enter and exit. The system can recognize when that same license plates leaves the lot, logging the amount of time it has been there. If it was parked for more than the amount allowed, the system can generate a parking summons that is then mailed to the car owner.
Right now, the village uses a machine that dispense a time-stamped ticket for drivers to display on their dashboards in the Robert G. Reutershan and Barnes Schenck municipal parking lots. Police officers and traffic control officers on patrol can then tell how long the car has been parked in the lot. If it's more than two hours, the driver is written a summons.
Police Chief Jerry Larsen and Lt. Tony Long have been working SecureWatch 24, a New York City-based security company to find ways to perform its duties more effectively. Long said reading the time-stamped tickets is "man-power intensive" and requires the help of traffic control officers. The machines also break down and run out of tickets during the summer.
Ritz Dreyer, a services leader with the firm, said the system is similar to the system that sends out tickets to drivers who run red lights, although those cameras take pictures. This system the village is considering streams video and registers license plates, just as the license plate readers mounted on village police vehicles, which identifies cars that have suspended registrations among other things. That technology has been used in the village for over three years.
No municipality this far east on Long Island using such an advanced system, according to Dreyer. His company has installed similar cameras in Rockville Centre, though those were for security issues.
Dreyer appeared briefly before the village board on Friday to broach the subject. He and Tomasz Scilsowski, a manager with SW24, were meeting with Trustee Rick Lawler, who is the liaision to the police department, Friday afternoon.
Long said there are a lot of decisions to be made before the system is put into use, such as how long the board wants to allow drivers to park. The board could even decide that it wants to cap the amount of time a single car is allowed to park per day. As of now, a driver could park for the maximum two hours, leave and come back later and park for another two hours.
The department would like to try out the cameras during a pilot program in July and August, while also using the TCOs, and analyze which is more cost effective, Long said.
"I think we're putting the cart before the horse," Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said. He wants the department to codify the product and come back to the board with a full presentation. He noted the need to improve the parking system. "We'd certainly like to make it better than it is."
Village Administrator Larry Cantwell said all department heads have been asked to look at ways to cut down on overtime costs. In fact, the department of public works found it could save $10,000 to $15,000 by contracting with a private company to clean the Herrick Park bathrooms on the weekends instead of paying village employees to come in on the weekends. The board approved a resolution to pay Class Act Maintenance $38.75 per day on off-season weekends and $77.50 for twice-a-day cleaning on weekends between June 30 and Sept. 3.