March 15, 2012 | Vol. 42, No. 11

Cameras at docks trigger concerns

Are security cameras around Haines waterfront locations a good security measure or an example of Big Brother government infringing on the privacy of residents?

The question was zipping around the Internet this week, in advance of a resolution before the Haines Borough Assembly to accept a $233,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for fencing and gates at Lutak Dock and cameras at Lutak and the Port Chilkoot Dock.

Haines Borough school board member Brenda Jones sent out word via e-mail about a similar grant that provided the town of Dillingham with “80 cameras with a live direct feed to our federal government in Washington, D.C.” while she lived there.

Attached to Jones’ e-mail were news stories by CBS News and the Los Angeles Times about the 2009 controversy there about the cameras, including a petition drive aimed at removing them and a battle between a former Mayor and the town’s chief of police over the matter.

“Once the cameras were up they refused to remove them. To add to the insult the cameras are not even American made. I hope everyone voices their opinion on this,” Jones wrote.

Fred Gray, manager of fuel supplier Delta Western in Haines, responded that, “Tis the season to over react to situations.”

Gray said he served on a federal grant committee for Southeast Alaska that the U.S. Coast Guard oversaw.

“We were lucky enough to get a grant to put new fences and gates at the Lutak Dock facility, saving the taxpayers of Haines $232,946. We added the cameras to the grant for dock security,” Gray wrote.

He said the cameras were “to be installed and directed to the Haines Police department or the harbormaster’s office, to be determined by the Borough.”

“The borough will have complete control of what type, make and place of manufacturing; we can have one camera or 30, to be determined by the borough,” Gray wrote.

The assembly voted 5-1 Tuesday to accept the grant, with member Norm Smith opposed. Cameras on the Port Chilkoot Dock for one cruise ship a week would be “ridiculous,” he said.

“I don’t want to see (the Chilkoot dock) locked up like Fort Knox… It belongs to the people of the borough, not the Department of Homeland Security or anyone else. It’s our dock,” Smith said.

Assemblyman Jerry Lapp said cameras at the cruise dock might deter vandalism there. Member Debra Schnabel said fencing around Lutak Dock makes sense to safeguard valuable or hazardous materials there. “If they want to throw in a few cameras, I don’t have a problem with that.”

Facilities manager Brian Lemcke said he didn’t believe there would be money left over from the grant for cameras but noted that the borough’s Tourism Advisory Board had inquired about security cameras at the cruise dock.

Manager Mark Earnest said he’d submit a plan for the work to the assembly before construction started.