Utilities Dept Is The Integrator For This City System?

Norwich Public Utilities Dept has installed and maintained a (trial) 4-cam municipal surveillance system for a year, and the police are about to add 12 more cameras.

Additionally, the Public Utilities dept charges the city to use it's fiber to run the camera feeds back to the police station, and they also have a bid for Dam Safety Surveillance and Monitoring Plan for the Greenville Hydroelectric Project as well...

Is this set-up normal in CT (or anywhere else)? I've never seen a public utilities department in this role before...


"Use the word Norwich in a sentence." "The man was neither warlock nor witch." (Old Connecticut joke)

Seriously, I think it's an interesting concept: an end user doing their own integration. What a novel idea!

What about the utilities dept charging another city dept (police) for use of the fiber the city (that they are both a dept of) owns?

Are utilities department qualified to do such projects? Seems out of line with what their skill sets / focus typically is. I could understand an IT department trying but utilities?

I don't see why you don't think a utilitiy company wouldn't be qualified to do this kind of work. Utility companies have large IT departments, lots of electricians and power lineman. They have the equipment to install poles for the cameras and the bucket trucks to get to the cameras for installation and maintenance.

Also Utility companies usually will not allow just any contractors to touch there utility poles. In my city you can't just put a camera on a utility pole without written permission from the utility company and then they are the ones who have to install it.

I agree with Duncan. In many respects, utilities can be just as, if not more capable of installing their own surveillance systems. And Marty, it's quite common for one department to bill another. This happens in private enterprise, as well. It's a question of budgets. It's often easier to bill another department for a job than to try to transfer a project's budget from one department to another.

In my country Safe City projects with optical cable use the following methods:

- Approval of digging by City Engineer.

- Use municipality empty ducts.

- In one case approved the use of sewer pipeline.

All of this permissions after hard bureaucracy of public utilities department and City Engineer and executed by CCTV integrator.

Duncan, this is fairly tiny utility company with revenue under $50 million and less than 200 employees. I am sure they have a few people in IT but nowhere near enough to specialize in such out of core areas.

I am a recently retired police officer and worked the majority of my career for a larger police department in the technical surveillance unit. However, my last few years were spent working for a small town police department (27 officers). At this small department, myself and our part time IT guy (who works in the court office when he isn't doing IT duties) installed an IP video system in and around the police station with more than 30 cameras (Sony Ipela & Axis) with a Milestone Corporate VMS.

This system included cameras for interior/exterior building security, the audio/video interview rooms, the prisoner cell block (where we fitted each cell door with armoured magnetic contacts to turn on the audio and switch the coresponding cell camera from motion activated to full time recording when the cell door closed). We also brought a couple of camera feeds back from the court house several blocks away to the police station on a fibre link (that our public untilities installed) The system was later expanded to include cameras in the new municipal office building.

My point here is that you never know what skill and expertise may exist at any sized company or government institution. In the case of Norwich, they were more than twice the size of the town that I was working for.

Yes, such skill and expertise may exist at any sized company or government institution but my experience is that it is uncommon. Most utility departments or companies lack the focus, interest and specific training to do surveillance projects. Much like most IT guys would be inefficient / ineffective at high voltage electrical work, etc.

My main point is that municipalities need to think very careful before dumping their projects on their utility departments / companies. It might look like a way to save money but I think most times it will cause more errors and delays than hiring a specialist.

It's more common than you think. I have several municipal customers that take this apporach, including several utility departments. They usually run it through the city or county IT department if they don't have their own IT specialists. The utility departments specialists are responsible for farily intricate IP SCADA and communications systems over fiber networks, so to them it's not really complicated, just another device on that network. Many times the utility cameras aren't for security but rather for the SCADA operators to remotely view what is happening inside a unmanned facility without having to dispatch a truck.

With cameras that are remote focus and ready to go out of the box, all they need are some suggestions on what cameras to use, training on the VMS and additional camera licenses and storage as needed. As complicated as we make it, a simple IP surveillance system isn't rocket science as compared to some of their other systems.

Marty - Yes counties lease fiber to cities and different city departments pay each other to use their fiber networks all the time.

"As complicated as we make it, a simple IP surveillance system isn't rocket science as compared to some of their other systems."

Things aren't complicated unless something goes wrong. And things don't go wrong all the time, but when they do, the difference between someone with experience and without is significant.

It's like me saying 'hey i am an expert in video and a smart guy, i am going to do an access control system'. The likelihood for errors and omissions are really high and likely not worth the risk compared to finding a specialist.

Things aren't complicated unless something goes wrong. And things don't go wrong all the time, but when they do, the difference between someone with experience and without is significant.

It's like me saying 'hey i am an expert in video and a smart guy, i am going to do an access control system'. The likelihood for errors and omissions are really high and likely not worth the risk compared to finding a specialist.

That's why they rely on an integrator. The integrator train these end users (many times with factory certification) so it is not as if someone totally uneducated or unfamiliar with these systems is doing the work on them. Most of the time the integrator installed the core system and they maintain and expand it.

When it does go bad, the integrator's tech support staff can remote in to their system and fix most issues in short order. Most routine tasks the owner will tackle themselves but call the integrator in for the trickier stuff, like upgrading the VMS software for example. Not many owner/integrators want to touch access control aside from routine tasks such credential or schedule management.

John,

Spoken like a true (former?) Integrator, LOL

Carl - The "former" title is effective at Wed. 7/31 at 5:00 EST (*hint*) Or were you talking to the other John?

Carl, I put my money where my mouth is. Why is IPVM built around former integrators / manufacturer engineers? Why don't we be like the trade mags and analyst firms who hire people with zero industry experience and pay them 50% less? It's because I believe that expertise does count - a more expensive, experienced person can deliver greater overall value.

Marty is unsatisfied with the intra-departmental payments. There's no additional taxpayer money being spent by doing this. It's just a way to track how taxpayer money was distributed within the government.

Just because it isn't direct, doesn't mean additional money isn't being spent...

The only way no additional taxpayer money is spent is if the department who charges fees to another city department then applies this revenue directly to their next fiscal years appropriaton request (i.e. next years request should be lower to offset the received revenue).

If they don't, then the taxpayers in effect pay the city twice to do whatever it is that this department does - once in this departments initial appropriation, and again by the other departments taxpayer funded appropriation paying them.

Marty is unsatisfied with intra-departmental payments (when both departments are funded by appropriations).

You have to remember, I work in an industry that does many projects in-house, from Surveillance to construction to IT projects. And although we do have an Integrator performing our system replacement/update, it's primarily due to my team not having competencies for certain aspects of the job and having a relatively small team.

Under other conditions, I would seriously consider performing all or most of this project ourselves. In fact, we do more in-house than some even larger casinos. I don't see that as any different from a city utility department doing their own install. In fact, my hat's off to them.

Despite the flack I'll probably receive for this, I don't think Integrators have a monopoly on installation competence. Some are better than others and some are worse than many end users. It all depends on the skills of both parties and the dedication of the end user. Some of us actually take pride in keeping as much in-house as possible.

As for one department billing another, that is an accounting thing. It allows them to jibe expenses with department budgets.

I think the point that is lost here is does the system do what it is intended to do? If it does, no mistake has been made. All of this negativity regarding the competencies (or lack thereof) of the utility department assumes the projects will not perform as expected or would perform better if installed by a "qualified integrator".

A number of people, John H especially, have posited that the city utility doesn't have qualified people to install such a system. Since no one seems to have checked to see if the system functions as expected, it appears that many of the arguments are "sour grapes" from Integrators and former Integrators more concerned about protecting their turf than about the end result.

In regards to one department billing another, without digging into how the project is budgeted, again it is all speculation.

Sour grapes????

Can I turn this around and say that you are using this to tell everyone how great you are? It has the same intellectual merit. You have no additional evidence the other way.

My point is a general one - most utilities do not have the internal expertise to handle these types of projects, and specifically, the smaller a utility is, the less likely they are to be able to handle it. I am talking about patterns. Are there outliers, of course. But, in general, this pattern does hold.

No you can't because I'm not. I am a former Integrator and a former employee of an Integrator. I also know people who have gone back and forth between the two job types. And I am not the one who is claiming the job is "out of line with what their skill sets" without actually knowing the skill sets of the people who did the job.