Madison officials on Monday added money to the proposed 2018 capital budget that would allow police to undertake a pilot program for officer body cameras.

The Finance Committee voted 4-3 to include $123,000 into next year’s budget to purchase 47 body cameras, train North District officers on how to use them and pay overtime costs for processing the footage. While funds for a program were in the 2016 budget, they had been removed for this year’s budget.

Alds. Paul Skidmore, Barbara Harrington-McKinney and Mike Verveer voted in favor, while Alds. Sara Eskrich, Marsha Rummel and Zach Wood were against. Mayor Paul Soglin supported the program to break the tie.

Some council members thought it was not appropriate to undergo a pilot as the city is waiting on the results of a $400,000 study into the practices, policies and procedures of the police department due by the end of this year.

“We’re asking a lot of our police department right now, and I don’t believe this is the right time to move forward,” Eskrich said.

As a safeguard to what the study recommends, the City Council would need to approve a separate resolution next year to authorize the release of the $123,000.

“It is absolutely not if, it is when,” Harrington- McKinney said about testing body cameras.

In November, the full City Council will decide on the capital budget where more amendments can be made that add or take out projects.

In the end, the Finance Committee was largely in consensus and approved all of the 22 proposed budget amendments.

The committee’s actions add $6.5 million to the $326 million 2018 capital budget Soglin offered earlier this month. Of the new funds, $4.7 million would come from borrowing.

  • An amendment was approved that would allow certain utility lines along Jenifer Street on the Near East Side to be placed underground.

The city would use $250,000 from a nearby tax incremental finance (TIF) district to make it possible. High-voltage electric lines would be pneumatically bored under the roadway from Williamson Street to Few Street, while television, cable and secondary electric lines would remain strung along poles.

Supporters said it’ll help preserve the canopy by reducing the need to trim branches near the high-voltage lines.

Harrington-McKinney questioned whether the plan was equitable as some neighborhoods throughout Madison don’t have the ability to use TIF money for similar undergrounding projects.

  • Committee members also amended the budget to include $500,000 in planning and schematic design work for improvements to Law Park.

Verveer, who represents the Downtown core, said planning on the future of the park along John Nolen Drive is overdue.

Next year, $200,000 would be set aside, and $300,000 would go to planning in 2019.

The timing pairs well with a study nearing completion on the redesign of the complex intersection of South Blair, East Wilson, Williamson streets and John Nolen Drive, Verveer said.

  • Another amendment moves up funding for renovations of an off-leash dog park in Brittingham Park from 2021 to 2018. The $350,000 could allow the city to expand the footprint of the dog park and possibly add artificial turf, which would be a first for Madison. The funds don’t require borrowing and would come from park impact fees and dog park fees.
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