After the city of Carrollton proposed accepting federal grant money to purchase new utility task vehicles (UTVs) and drone software for use in monitoring the public trail system, the mayor and city council agreed to pull the item from its agenda Tuesday evening.
The agenda item had “caused quite a bit of discussion,” and the city council members had received a lot of feedback from citizens about what they were afraid would amount to surveillance by the city.
City staff had sought a grant of $45,072 from the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding to purchase two new UTVs and video streaming software to use with drones the city already owns. The city memo accompanying the agenda item explained that both the UTVs and drone software would be used by the city to encourage social distancing.
The mayor explained that the grant required that the funds be used for preparation, prevention, or response to coronavirus.
“This is not about surveillance or inhibiting the rights of any of our citizens,” Mayor Kevin Falconer said during the meeting.
Carrollton Police Chief Derick Miller explained that the city was looking for a way to use the available funds that complied with the federal grant guidelines.
The city’s present UTVs are older and in need of replacement, and the grant provided an opportunity to replace them while also complying with the requirements of the grant, Falconer said.
He also clarified that federal grants come with very specific guidelines and that the grant was written in a way so as to comply with those guidelines. “But the grant may be more trouble than it’s worth,” Falconer added.
Miller noted that the city’s police officers have been intentional about patrolling the city’s nearly 24 miles of trail system and have encouraged users to maintain the recommended social distance, but haven’t issued any citations.
Councilmember Pat Cochran emphasized that she believes that it would be within the police department’s authority to issue citations for social distancing violations because of Governor Abbott’s executive orders.
Acknowledging the public feedback about the agenda item, Councilmember Mike Hennefer said, “I am grateful for the citizens’ participation in the process,” and added that the city doesn’t want to spy on its citizens.
The agenda item was pulled from consideration and could be resubmitted in the future with revisions.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.