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Round II: RTM committees back $98K for school security study

Updated 7:59 am, Friday, May 17, 2013

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  • Police Chief Dale Call and Board of Education Chairwoman Elaine Whitney answer questions Thursday from Representative Town Meeting members regarding a proposed $98,000 contract for an outside firm to survey security at town schools.  WESTPORT NEWS, CT 5/16/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News
    Police Chief Dale Call and Board of Education Chairwoman Elaine Whitney answer questions Thursday from Representative Town Meeting members regarding a proposed $98,000 contract for an outside firm to survey security at town schools. WESTPORT NEWS, CT 5/16/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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Plans for a security survey of the town's schools, yanked from legislative action in March after questions arose over the no-bid process school officials used to award the $100,000 contract, appear to be back on track.

The Board of Education, after opening the job to bidding in its second attempt to win funding for the project, won almost unanimous support from three Representative Town Meeting committees Thursday for $98,000 to conduct the survey.

The school board withdrew its initial request March 5 after the same RTM committees raised concerns about why the contractor had been selected without considering other bids. For the revised effort, 12 firms submitted proposals and an expanded committee that included police officials, decided the original choice for the survey -- Kroll, Inc., based in Manhattan -- would still be the best choice.

"We were of the belief that we should have been involved from the very beginning , one way or another," Police Chief Dale Call said, referring to criticism that school officials failed to seek police input for the initial plan. "That's water under the bridge. On the RFP (request for proposals) process, we were very involved."

"We looked at all the proposals, along with (Superintendent of Schools Elliott) Landon, and we were all in agreement ... Kroll is the best of everyone who submitted a proposal," he added.

Call said the 12 proposals reviewed by the security committee ranged from "abysmal to really, really good."

"Over the last couple of months we've taken a number of steps to be responsive to a number of requests," said Elaine Whitney, the school board chairwoman. "We have actively been working with our police and fire departments (and) we've also conducted, as you know, a thorough RFP process."

"We were as inclusive as possible," she said. "We ended up with 12 bids, and then there was a process for analyzing them ... There was a very good dialogue and there was a unanimous recommendation ... that Kroll was the best one to deliver the services we were looking for."

One question was raised Thursday regarding the information in the last school-security study, which was conducted six years ago. However, school officials said the contents of that study could be viewed only by police and Board of Education members.

"I'm a little just concerned that I can't see what went on six years ago," said RTM member Jack Klinge.

"That's a confidential document for the police and Board of Education," responded Landon.

"How are we going to know the incremental value of the new study?" Klinge asked, if RTM members were not allowed to compare it to the old survey.

"That study's passe," Landon said. "It's six years old."

But based on that security study, he added, "Some of what we did is obvious. We put television cameras in the entryway of every school. We put in buzzers and a locking system, so that no one can enter the school unless they're buzzed in." Cameras were also installed in "key spots" inside and outside of schools, he said.

However, Call said, details of school security measures are "the last thing we want to do is put some of that out publicly."

Questions were also asked about Kroll's experience working with public school systems. Most of the consulting firm's clients have been businesses or universities, and a few private schools.

"I just wonder are we kind of inventing the wheel here?" said RTM member Jeff Wieser.

Call said he had raised that question, but he and school officials had been satisfied by the consultants that they can work effectively with school administrators.

Voting separately, the three committees -- Education, Finance and Public Protection -- approved the funding request by an overall 14-0 vote, with one abstention.

The full RTM is expected to vote on the money sought for the school security survey on June 4. If approved, Landon said a contract would be signed the following day.

"Kroll is the best in the business," said RTM member Louis Mall, whose sister runs a university on Long Island and highly recommended the firm. "They're expensive, but you'll get the best practices."

"I want what's best for our children," he said.