Vandalism continues to be a concern

    This is a case of a purchase taking longer than originally planned paying off in the end, literally.   

    Crookston's Lake Agassiz Regional Library branch will soon be home to a security camera system, and since city and library officials began talking about purchasing the cameras a couple years ago, camera technology has improved, while at the same time the price of the cameras is a fraction of what it once was.   

    As a result, an expense that at one time was in the $8,000 range is now around $1,500. Even better, Crookston Library Director Chris Boike told the Crookston City Council this week, the Friends of the Library has agreed to put $1,600 toward the project.   

   There is one potential downside, Boike said. The new camera system will not feature cameras mounted on the exterior of the building at the corner of Ash and Robert streets. Cameras that need to stand up to the elements cost significantly more, have a shorter life, she explained, and would likely require some electrical work.   

    So as a result, City IT Director Philip Barton said, only a half-dozen cameras will be purchased. "This way, it's a drastically reduced cost," he said. "The cost of the cameras has gone way down, and the quality is up."   

    The FOL's contribution will cover the equipment costs, and Barton, along with volunteers Brian Halos and Phil Huck from the FOL board, will lead the installation effort to save on labor costs. Barton said in previous cost estimates, about half of the cost was labor.   

    A security camera system at the library has long been discussed, and a couple years ago money was in a fund to put toward the purchase but had to instead be put toward the purchase of a new boiler.   

    Vandalism is an ongoing concern in the building's interior and exterior, Boike said. But, to concerns voiced by some council members over a lack of cameras outside, she said a camera positioned inside near the entrance will have a view of the book drop outside, which has been vandalized more than anything else outside over the years. If additional security coverage is needed in the future, more cameras can potentially be purchased, Boike said.   

    Another vandalism concern outside has centered on the lettered Crookston Public Library sign, she said, with letters periodically being removed. Teacher Mike Geffre's metals students at Crookston High School have come especially in handy, she said, when letters have been stolen in the past by crafting new letters, free of charge. "We have an 'A' missing now, and we're waiting to get a new one from the class," Boike said.   

    Inside, graffiti in the bathrooms has been the biggest headache, she said. If cameras trained on the bathroom area don't reduce the problem, she said the men's restroom might have to be locked. "It's not an ideal situation," Boike said.