Surveillance Systems Sit Unused at Wisconsin County's Government Buildings

Some Waukesha County agencies used federal Homeland Security funds to buy equipment that sits idle or was considered a low priority, a newspaper reported.

The Waukesha Freeman reported that two X-ray machines, which together cost $75,696, sit unused in hallways at the Waukesha County Courthouse and the administration center because there isn't enough money to pay people to operate them full-time.

In Menomonee Falls, police bought a periscope with two cameras for $7,888. In Brookfield, police paid $73,030 to install a security system on police station doors.

The New Berlin Police Department used $26,592 in federal funds to buy an item labeled on an inventory list as "law enforcement surveillance equipment,'' the newspaper reported.

New Berlin police declined to talk about the item, citing security concerns. "Then we're getting into details about what we have and what we do and we don't want people to know that,'' New Berlin Lt. David Dunn said.

Those four purchases totaled nearly 20 percent of the county's nearly $940,000 in federal Homeland Security funding last year.

Gov. Jim Doyle made personal protective equipment for first responders and critical infrastructure protection the top priorities for agencies seeking security funds in 2003.

Much of the county's money did go to improving radio communication between emergency personnel and buying equipment to prepare for chemical attacks, the newspaper said.

James Malueg, coordinator of the Waukesha County Office of Emergency Government, said perhaps the county board does not scrutinize Homeland Security spending as rigorously as other spending because it does not require a local match.

He said the county received requests for more than $3 million in security spending.

Waukesha County Sheriff's Deputy Inspector Steve Marks said the X-ray machines are part of a long-term plan to reduce the number of public entrances at the complex.

Until the county can afford to hire operators, the machines can still be used if needed, such as for a high-profile trial.