Storm fries traffic camera

ELLSWORTH — City councilors unanimously approved a request from IT Systems Administrator Jason Ingalls last Friday morning to spend roughly $20,000 on a Gridsmart 360 camera system to replace a traffic camera that failed at the intersection of Downeast Highway and High Street (near McDonald’s) during the recent windstorm.

A power surge caused a battery backup unit to malfunction and ultimately led to the failure of the detection camera facing Downeast Highway.

The traffic lights are working, said Ingalls, but “the critical issue is that it doesn’t have detection right now. It pays no attention to whatever level of traffic is coming from the side streets.”

Ingalls contacted Electric Light Co., but the staff there told him the existing camera was too old (about 10 years) to repair and recommended replacing it with a Gridsmart 360 camera, similar to the ones the city uses elsewhere.

Electric Light Co. is the state’s only dealer of this particular type of camera, Ingalls said.

“We have a limited window to run cabling and underground conduits at this point,” Ingalls said. “Those will be frozen within a month.”

The conduits can be repaired in the winter, said Ingalls, but would have to be thawed, which would add considerably to the expense of working on them.

The company has assured him they can get to the work before the conduit freezes, Ingalls said.

In response to a question about whether or not the city could put protection in place to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again, Ingalls responded:

“We had the protection in place but the protection failed us. We had that battery backup in the cabinet but that also failed.”

The battery backups should also probably be replaced, said Ingalls, “but you’re looking at $10,000-$15,000 to replace the cabinet.”

“It’s just a matter of finding funding for that,” he added.

To keep costs down, Ingalls isn’t recommending buying the counting license for this new Gridsmart camera, which would count the vehicles passing by but cost an additional $5,000.

“We have counts at Walgreens and the counts at this signal are going to be quite similar,” he said.

The counting aspect is a software piece that can be purchased at any time, he added.

Councilors unanimously approved the request.

Ingalls noted that there is some misconception that the city is recording video through the cameras, but that isn’t the case.

“The purpose of the cameras is vehicle detection,” Ingalls said. “Not recording.”

Kate Cough

Kate Cough

Kate covers the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. She lives in Bar Harbor and welcomes story tips and ideas. She can be reached at [email protected]

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