Mt. Lebanon’s plans to implement a license plate recognition system to assist with parking enforcement have hit a roadblock.
Municipal finance director Andrew McCreery provided an update during Mt. Lebanon Commission’s July 28 discussion session, reporting a system as envisioned may not be possible at this point.
The goal had been to acquire the requisite technology for expediently detecting violators of overnight, timed-zone and permit parking regulations, with the capability of expanding it to other law-enforcement operations. But according to McCreery, discussions with a potential vendor put a damper on those expectations.
“Their current solution that’s an in-house software is not going to meet our needs,” he said, explaining third-part integration software is available but not optimal because of higher costs, more maintenance and the need to devote resources to the transferring of data. “It’s not going to be just a plug-and-play solution, like we thought, maybe, back in 2019.”
As early as 2017, municipal officials had seen demonstrations of third-party software.
“We waited because our current vendor bought out a company that specialized in LPR technology,” McCreery said. “So we were anticipating they’d be able to handle our needs.”
As a result of the latest developments, he and members of the police department agreed to re-examine the course to take.
“We want to look at it from a different perspective,” McCreery reported, with an emphasis on acquiring the technology at first primarily for police functions. “and then can we do auxiliary parking functions.”
The plan is return before the commission in October, in advance of discussion regarding the 2021 municipal budget, following consultations with officials from other communities that have license plate recognition in use.
“We just need to see what works best for us in Mt. Lebanon,” McCreery said.
Parking on Mt. Lebanon streets generally is prohibited between 2 and 6 a.m. because of public safety concerns, and police patrols on overnight shifts are tasked with handling enforcement.
In that context, Craig Grella, commission president, questioned the idea of equipping a patrol vehicle with an LPR system.
“It doesn’t make sense to me to put more of that on the police,” he said. “I’m trying to figure out ways that we can separate it altogether, where we have just a dedicated parking enforcement team.”
Grella also had a question for the commission as a whole.
“Are we a municipality that wants to enforce parking the way that our ordinance even currently says we should enforce parking?” he inquired. “If so, we probably need to put that down in some sort of ordinance or amendment to our existing ordinance before we go too far down the road with figuring out who’s going to do what in what vehicles.”
Commissioner Leeann Foster supported further study of LPR possibilities, comparing the situation to a chicken-or-egg scenario.
“I don’t know if you can make a decision on what you want to do if you don’t know what entails how to do it,” she said. “So that’s what I would like to know is: How is it getting done in other communities? And then make a decision about: Does it make sense to even do that here?”
In whatever direction municipal officials decide to proceed, Commissioner Mindy Ranney expressed the opinion technological capabilities are in need of improvement.
“I was actually shocked to learn that our police department currently doesn’t have an LPR system, that they are expected to, while driving, type in a license plate,” she said. “They can call it in on the radio and then they can wait for that, as well. But those are their two options.”
Municipal manager Keith McGill emphasized the police department continues to enforce overnight, timed-zone and permit regulations, and he urged motorists not to park illegally.