WALLINGFORD — After several starts and stops, the town is ready to go out to bid for security cameras for Doolittle Park.
Plans for the cameras have been in the works for a while but increased in importance after the park's playscape was destroyed by fire on Oct. 29. Two teens are believed to have set the fire about 11 p.m. that night, and neighbors, seeing the flames, called police.
The playscape was a total loss and has been removed from the park. It will be replaced with the same style playscape at a cost estimated to be about $65,000, which is covered by the town's insurance. In the wake of the fire, Choate Rosemary Hall also donated $20,000 to go toward improvements at the park.
While plans had been in the works for some time to install security cameras at Doolittle, they were delayed when the town learned it had to install electricity there before the cameras could go out to bid.
"We ended up realizing that the electric division had to do some work to provide power" for the cameras, Mayor William Dickinson Jr. said. But that work is now done and the request for bids went out on Jan. 20.
There are three parts to the request: installation, repair and monitoring services for an alarm system, audio visual components and accessories and surveillance equipment, according to the bid. Bids are due on Feb. 8 at 5 p.m.
Since the fire, the issues of safety and maintenance in the town's parks have come up several times at Town Council meetings. Former Parks and Recreation Commission chairman Jason Michael appeared before the council to talk about conditions at the park, saying that commission members felt their concerns were going unheard, leading to frustration that led to the resignations of several members, including Michael.
Councilors Christina Tatta and Joseph Malone toured several town parks and presented slides to the council of what they said were of the most egregious conditions, which included large cracks in concrete and potholes in tennis courts.
Councilor Sam Carmody said he welcomes the cameras but is dismayed by the need for them.
"I think the installation of cameras is an unfortunate necessity at this point to keep members of our community safe," Carmody said. "I wish we could preserve people’s privacy by not having the area monitored in this manner, but there have just been too many dangerous and negative activities that have occurred at the park. I hope the cameras will help deter such activities in the future."