Some Pittsburgh security cameras are out of service for lack of maintenance

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The city of Pittsburgh went a year without paying for maintenance services for a set of 153 security cameras purchased with a federal grant, prompting the company that was to maintain them to halt its services and leave between one-fifth and one-fourth of the cameras off-line at the start of 2014.

James Sloss, deputy director of the Department of Innovation and Performance, told city council Wednesday that invoices from the company went unpaid because officials under the administration of former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who left office at the start of the year, failed to execute the contract. City council acted to rectify the problem by giving preliminary approval to paying the company $194,791. The bill, which pays for the maintenance through the end of this year, will be up for a final vote next week and then will head to the mayor's desk.

Sonya Toler, public safety department spokeswoman, said the company, Avrio, has resumed maintaining the cameras. On Wednesday, she said, 27 of the 153 cameras -- around 18 percent -- were off-line, just above the average 15 percent that typically are out of service citywide. The cameras maintained by Avrio represent just a portion of all the security cameras in the city.

Mr. Sloss said Mayor Bill Peduto signed the contract when he took office. But city Controller Michael Lamb said Avrio's invoices still could not be paid because the administration needed to draft a bill to pay the company, spelling further delay.

Mr. Ravenstahl said he had "no involvement" with the contract, and referred questions to finance director Scott Kunka and public safety director Mike Huss, both of whom worked for Mr. Ravenstahl and now work for Mr. Peduto. Neither responded to requests for comment.

Shortly after he won election in November, Mr. Peduto directed his chief of staff to instruct city department heads not to enter into any new contracts. It is possible this could have held up the paperwork and the Avrio payment, though the most recent contract with Avrio represented an extension of a long-standing agreement with the company. Avrio won a $4.1 million contract to install cameras through a 2009 Port Security Grant from the Department of Homeland Security. It later received extensions to expand its work and maintain the cameras.

Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle said the importance of cameras has been underscored by recent arrests in homicide cases made with the help of surveillance camera videos. Images from surveillance cameras -- though mostly from private businesses -- helped police build their case against Allen Wade, who is facing homicide charges in the February killings of two sisters in East Liberty.

"It's important that we have them up and running," Mr. Lavelle said.

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.


Moriah Balngit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published March 12, 2014 11:27 AM

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