DOWNEY – In an effort to free up police officers and staff, the City Council on Tuesday authorized the creation of a civilian volunteer program within the Downey Police Department.
Volunteers won’t actually patrol streets. Instead, they will be unarmed and provide support to police officers and administration by performing routine duties such as answering phones and conducting traffic and crowd control at city events and traffic collisions.
Most of all, civilian patrols will also serve as an extra set of eyes and ears for police officers, said Downey Police Capt. Stephen Garza.
“Perhaps the best way to look at it is like an extension of the Neighborhood Watch program -- only mobile,” he said.
Volunteers will patrol in two vehicles but have no authority to arrest or issue citations, Garza said.
In a staff report, Police Chief Carl Charles cautioned that a volunteer program wouldn't be free, writing that a volunteer program is “feasible,” but that in its current state “the Department does not have adequate staffing, budgeted funds, or equipment to properly implement, maintain, and manage a Volunteer Program, especially considering current responsibilities such as the new Park Ranger Program currently being developed.”
While volunteers donate their time, the program isn’t free. The cost to implement and supervise the program is budgeted at $66,000, plus an additional $27,000 annually for maintenance.
The bulk of the start-up cost is to finance the purchases of two new police vehicles. Two patrol cars would then be taken out of commission and rebranded for civilian patrols.
“I have all the confidence in the department to train our volunteers properly and make great impacts in the community,” said Mayor Alex Saab.
■ Instead of throwing away old street signs, Downey will begin selling them at $25 each.
In 2014, the City Council voted to replace Downey’s 7,000 street signs, which were determined to be not in compliance with new state standards.
As of this week, about 1,280 signs have been replaced. The old signs are currently being stored at a maintenance yard and are “taking up a great deal of space... and need to be removed from the yard,” said public works director Mohammad Mostahkami.
Council members this week agreed to begin selling old street signs for $25, with proceeds used for future street sign replacements.
Signs can be purchased at City Hall. Residents then take their receipt to the public works maintenance yard, show their receipt, and pick up a sign.
Unsold signs will be recycled at the end of each fiscal year.
■ Council members approved a $516,000 project to install LED lights along Lakewood Boulevard, between Florence Avenue and Gardendale Street.
As part of the project, the boulevard’s light poles and traffic signals will be re-painted from its original cobalt blue to grey, matching the new light poles on Lakewood between Florence and Telegraph Road.
In a report to the City Council, Mostahkami that the project would “further expand on energy efficiency roadway lighting improvements within the city...”
“The proposed improvements will convert overhead street lights and decorative pedestrian safety lights along the subject portion of Lakewood Boulevard from their existing 400-watt and 100-watt metal halide lights to energy efficient LED lighting,” Mostahkami wrote.
City workers will install the LED lights, but the repainting will be completed by an outside vendor.
Approximately 133 overhead street lights will be repainted, along with 78 street light poles, 626 pedestrian safety light fixtures, 626 decorative pedestrian safety light poles and bases, 14 traffic signal controller cabinets, 33 electrical service cabinets, 30 bollards, and traffic signal poles and mast arms at 14 signalized intersections.
■ City Hall is going high-tech in terms of how it interacts with residents and customers.
The City Council on Tuesday voted to purchase 13 iPads, which will be placed at City Hall for customer check-in.
Currently, visitors who visit City Hall manually check-in on a piece of paper.
Under the new system, residents sign-in electronically on an iPad, either using their real name or anonymously. Residents also have the option of providing an email address to receive a customer satisfaction survey.
The digital process also “eliminates redundant data entry and reduces the number of spreadsheets that are used to record critical business data by storing information in a centralized database,” said administrative aide Maria Rivas.
The iPads will be situated inside kiosks and placed at the public counters at City Hall. City workers will be available for residents who need assistant using the devices or for residents who prefer to manually sign-in.
Customer satisfaction kiosks will also be placed at the Columbia Memorial Space Center, police station, library, and parks and recreation facilities.
The cost to purchase and install the iPads and kiosks is $14,363.
■ Council members extended Downey’s annual agreement with the Downey Chamber of Commerce for business promotion services.
Under terms of the deal, the Downey pays the chamber $33,000. In exchange, the chamber provides the city with public relations and business development services, along with government and legislative interrelations.