CPD receives approval for drone

Published 10:06 am Tuesday, April 25, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

A new piece of equipment will be added to the Clanton Police Department’s arsenal.

The department received approval from the Clanton City Council on April 24 to move forward with the purchase of a drone.

This piece of equipment will cost about $4,200, and will be paid for from defensive driving school fees. Police Chief Keith Maddox said these funds can be used because the drone will be used for gathering traffic flow and volume information, among other things.

The vote was unanimous. City Council member Bobby Cook was absent.

Areas of town where the drone would be most helpful are already being discussed.

“The uses are endless really in this day and age,” Maddox said.

He said it will be helpful for on-site investigations in traffic accidents.

“We need an aerial view of that as far recreating the accident. In the past, we have had to borrow [Clanton Fire Chief David] Driver’s truck with a 100-foot extension on it, we can do that with a drone now,” Maddox said.

Mayor Billy Joe Driver asked about privacy protection rules regarding drones. Maddox said there were some in place.

“You can’t take that drone where it cannot normally be seen,” Maddox said. “We couldn’t just go sit somewhere and spy on you.”

Other restrictions on drones have been developed by the Federal Aviation Administration. Exceptions for some of these restrictions are possible for law enforcement, if coordinated with the local airport. The FAA restricts flight to 400 feet above ground. The drone can fly two miles away from where the operator is standing.

Police officers that will be flying the drone will attend specific training at Auburn University to receive the necessary certificate, Maddox said. The certification classes are being offered for free.

The city’s insurance will cover the drone and any liability associated with it.

Updates on paving and the Chilton County Schools Champ program were heard. Driver said the paving company has one more road to do in order to finish the current contract.

CCS Child Nutrition Director Melody Bailey presented financial projections for the Chilton County At-Risk Afterschool and Summer Feeding Programs. A grant was received in February to start the after-school program and expand the summer program. The Clanton City Council had concerns that the program would not be self-sustaining once the grant funding was gone. Bailey said the figures showed the increase in the number of participants would mean more federal reimbursement to the program based on meals served and would be enough to sustain the program.

“It’s a wonderful program I am glad we are backing it,” council member Mary Mell Smith said.

Also during the meeting, the council approved:

— Keeping the municipal property tax rate at seven mills.

— Participating in the Back-to-School Tax Holiday for qualifying items for July 21 – 23.