Last month the Riverside Elementary School District 96 voted 5 to 1, with one abstention, to cancel an intergovernmental agreement with the village of Riverside that would have allowed the Riverside Police Department to install an antenna on the roof of the L.J. Hauser Junior High School to use as a relay point for security cameras the village is planning to install in the northern part of Riverside. 

Board member Lynda Murphy cast the only vote to continue the intergovernmental agreement. Board member Wesley Muirheid abstained at the Nov. 20 school board meeting.

Some board members had misgivings earlier this year when the board for a one-year intergovernmental agreement with the village on Feb. 20 on a 3-2 vote with two abstentions.

Since no relay was installed and board members were unsure when the village would be ready to proceed, board members Shari Klyber and Joel Marhoul decided to vote no this time instead of abstaining as they did in February. 

Board President Dan Hunt voted against the intergovernmental agreement after voting in favor of it in February.

School board member David Barsotti, a strong advocate of privacy rights, has been the most vocal opponent of using school property for a village owned relay antenna.   

“I don’t think the school should be participating in this type of activity,” Barsotti said. “How can we be assured that this stuff is not going to be abused by those watching it?”

Barsotti also said that the scope of the village’s plans has expanded.

“The scope has changed from what we originally talked about,” Barsotti said. “It’s part of a much broader initiative.”

Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said that while he respects the school board’s right to decide whether to allow the village to use their property, he was disappointed that the school board will not allow the relay antenna to be installed at Hauser.

“I’m disappointed in their decision, because I think it was an important part of the overall project,” Weitzel said. “However, we will find another alternative. It will not stop our street camera program from continuing.” 

About eight cameras have already been installed in downtown Riverside and the village is looking to put new security cameras at the intersection of Park Place and Woodside Road as well as at 31st Street and Desplaines Avenue. 

A relay antenna on the Hauser smokestack would have allowed images from those cameras to be transmitted to the Riverside police station.

Weitzel emphasized that that the village only wanted to only install an antenna, not a camera at Hauser. 

“It was only a relay point to shoot a beam from our camera so we could get the beam back to our facility for the video,” Weitzel said. “There were no camera devices ever proposed for District 96. It was only an antenna device.”

Weitzel said the village had been hoping to install the antenna sometime next year.

“We were shooting for some time in March or April,” Weitzel said.

Some school board members said they were not certain when the village had planned to install the relay antenna and did not want to approve an open-ended agreement.

The Hauser smokestack is the highest point in Riverside and thus an ideal spot for a relay antenna, but Weitzel said that village will now look at other locations.

“We will seek out other areas but that one best served our needs,” Weitzel said.

Weitzel said that all of the village’s security cameras are in the public way and only monitor public spaces.

“All of them are pointed in the public way,” Weitzel said.

The video images taken by the security cameras are stored for 90 days and then erased, unless a crime has occurred that makes the video useful. 

Weitzel said the decision by the school board will not affect his department’s relationship with District 96.

“I have a great working relationship with the district superintendent and I will continue to and my staff will,” Weitzel said. “Our number one priority is keeping the kids safe, and we will continue to that.”

Any decision to approach District 96 again will be up to the Riverside Village Board, Weitzel said.