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Surveillance cameras stop working after Pittsburgh fails to pay bill

| Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 3:17 p.m.

Former and current Pittsburgh officials are pointing fingers over who is to blame for a financial oversight that left nearly 18 percent of 153 security cameras protecting city waterways out of commission.

City Council members said the Ravenstahl administration failed to pay Avrio RMS Group $194,791 for camera maintenance. But former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who left office in December, said he had no direct oversight of a maintenance agreement.

“Ask (Finance Director Scott) Kunka or (Public Safety Director Michael) Huss,” Ravenstahl wrote in a text message. “Not only are they still there, but it would have been under their direction.”

Neither Kunka nor Huss returned messages seeking comment. Avrio, which has offices in Washington and Chicago, could not be reached.

Sonya Toler, spokeswoman for the public safety department, said the cameras were obtained through a federal grant in 2009 and are designed to monitor the three rivers. Twenty-seven cameras are not functioning, she said.

The city is responsible for maintenance but hasn't paid the bill since 2012, Toler said.

“The fact that some of them are down is not negatively impacting our delivery of public safety services,” she said.

Council on Wednesday moved to pay the bill and will take a final vote next week.

Toler blamed “a small part” of the delay on Mayor Bill Peduto's request that the Ravenstahl administration refrain from large expenses until Peduto was in office. She said Peduto began addressing outstanding contracts about two weeks after his Jan. 6 inauguration.

Several council members laid blame on Ravenstahl.

“The prior administration allowed bills to sit on their desk for months,” said Councilman Dan Gilman, who worked as Peduto's chief of staff when the mayor was a councilman.

Toler said the city has other cameras that overlap areas covered by those in question. She could not provide a total number, but said city cameras and those operated by businesses provide enough coverage for public safety activities.

Bob Bauder is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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