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Elk Grove Citizen

Council Approves Enhanced Drone Program

Apr 04, 2024 10:09AM ● By Shaunna Boyd
ELK GROVE, CA (MPG) - At the March 27 meeting, the Elk Grove City Council considered funding allocations for 2024-2025 from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Community Service Grant (CSG). The city received 36 applications, with the total requests exceeding $3 million, which was well beyond the available funding.
The Community Development Block Grant is an annual federal grant provided through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for programs and services that benefit low-income individuals.
This year, Elk Grove is expected to receive $910,987, of which up to 15% (estimated at $136,648) can be allocated to public services. The applications recommended for approval were Community Link Capital Region for the renters’ helpline, the Elk Grove Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, Project Sentinel Inc.'s fair housing services, and Waking the Village for youth transitional housing and shelter.
The Community Service Grant is allocated from the city’s General Fund to support nonprofit organizations serving Elk Grove residents. This year, the available funding is $457,969, which will go to organizations that provide public service assistance to the homeless, low-income families and domestic violence victims, as well as support for youth and senior programs, animal services, and for theater and arts programs. Groups recommended for approval were: Al-Misbaah, Alchemist CDC, Campus Life Connection, Chicks in Crisis, Elk Grove Fine Arts Center, Elk Grove Food Bank Services, Elk Grove Homeless Assistance Resource Tea, Elk Grove United Methodist Church, Friends of Elk Grove Animal Shelter, Musical Mayhem Productions, Runnin’ for Rhett, Sacramento Regional Family Justice Center, Senior Center, Teen Center, Uplift People of Elk Grove and xHope Inc.
During Public Comment on this item, various representatives from the nonprofit organizations spoke about how the funding will significantly impact their work to serve Elk Grove residents.
Councilmember Darren Suen thanked all the organizations for the work they do in the community and said he wished there were more funding to support these programs: “There’s a lot of need out there.”
Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen said, “Nonprofits fill a huge void. … You are all doing tremendous work.”
City Council directed staff to move forward with the allocations as recommended, and the final vote will be held at a future meeting.
Also considered by City Council were amendments to the Sheldon Park Estates project, currently under construction, which would allow a portion of the subdivision to convert into a private, gated community.
The initial project was approved in 2014 to build 45 single-family homes on two-acre lots north of Sheldon Road. In 2019, an update to the General Plan prohibited gated communities in the rural area. But Council revisited this decision in 2021 and removed that restriction.
The applicant is requesting that 28 lots be included in a private, gated community, Sheldon Park Estates North. As part of that process, four existing roads—Aquafina Court, Evian Court, Penta Way and Dasani Way—will be shifted from public roads to private roads, and vehicle gates will be installed at Penta Way and Dasani Way.
Updated conditions of approval will require the establishment of a Homeowners Association (HOA) to collect fees for maintenance of these private roads, including pavement, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, streetlights, drainage, signs and pavement markings.
City Council voted unanimously to approve the change and allow the gated community in Sheldon Park Estates.
Council members then considered an agreement with Aerodome for its Drone Response System Program for the Elk Grove Police Department in an amount not to exceed $2.14 million for the contract duration through fiscal year 2026-2027.
Special Operations Lt. Nate Lange explained that the Elk Grove Police Department has worked with drones since 2019 but this contract would allow for a significant expansion of the program. Lange said that drones can respond quickly to calls for service and the operator is able to assess the situation and see if an officer needs to respond. When officers do arrive on site, the drone provides real-time assistance to enhance officer safety in dangerous situations.
The Elk Grove Police Department uses drones in SWAT operations, to determine the location of illegal firework activity, to identify the culprits of dangerous street racing and to help the fire department assess the fire or flood level in emergency situations.
Aerodome was identified as the best partner for the expanded program, since its drones can fly at night, have advanced radar technology and the software integrates with the Elk Grove Police Department’s existing software.
 It also provides a  geographic information system overlay that shows the streets and addresses so precise locations can be assessed in real time by the operator.
Lange said the drones would never be used for surveillance, only to respond to calls for service. The expanded program will allow for drone use in cases of assault, reckless driving, suspicious person or circumstances, missing persons, stolen vehicles, theft, robbery, burglary and natural disasters.
The Elk Grove Police Department reviewed the 177,086 police dispatch calls from 2022 and found that 45,472 calls required an officer to respond. Of those, 11% could have been handled by a drone as first responder, which would have allowed officers to focus on other calls that required police engagement.
Using drones significantly increases the response time when residents call for police service, according to Lange, since the drones can be in the air in 10 seconds and arrive at any location within the city in about three minutes, which is significantly faster than officers can respond.
There were no public comments on this item.
Councilmember Sergio Robles said it was important to note that the drones would not be used for surveillance purposes. He said the technology would increase police efficiency and help save lives.
Councilmember Kevin Spease said the drone program is “not a weapon in an arsenal. It is a tool in a toolbox.” He said drones will reduce the risk to the police and fire departments “and, even more importantly, to our citizens.”
Mayor Singh-Allen said that they were not seeing complaints on this proposal, due to the “public trust. Our community loves and respects our police department, and that is key to overcoming some of those misconceptions of the technology.”
It’s a “great investment, a great tool,” Singh-Allen said.
City Council voted unanimously to approve the Aerodome drone contract.
The next Elk Grove City Council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 10 in the City Council Chambers, 8400 Laguna Palms Way.