Thursday, February 14, 2013
Finance Board Approves $100K School Security Study
After gaining assurances that a security study of Westport’s schools would be directed equally by police as well as educators, the Board of Finance tonight approved $100,000 for the study.
Westport Police Chief Dale Call (r) expresses his concerns tonight to the Board of Finance about a proposed school security study. Looking on are Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon (l) and Board of Education Chair Elaine Whitney (c). (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
The unanimous vote came a week after the board postponed action on an additional $50,000 school request to be added to $50,000 approved earlier when it learned that Westport police had not been actively involved in the process of selecting an outside firm.
“There’s always been a deep suspicion between the schools and police,” Police Chief Dale Call told a special board hearing held before its third workshop night reviewing the town’s proposed 2013-14 budget.
He said, however, that an afternoon meeting today involving police, the schools, and First Selectman Gordon Joseloff had made significant progress in allaying police concerns about the proposed study by the Kroll security firm.
Call said what had been lacking in the initial Kroll proposal was specifics about improving information sharing between the schools and police.
He stressed the importance of each knowing even what at first glance might be considered of little significance until linked to knowledge gained by the other side.
“I agree wholeheartedly with the chief,” said Landon. He said he looked forward to building a structure that would require police and school authorities to meet regularly.
Joseloff said he shared the police concerns about what was lacking in the initial proposal and added that improved information sharing could and should begin immediately.
“We don’t need Kroll to tell us to do that,” he said.
Call said even though a review of the school physical facilities had been made in 2006 by another security firm, it would be helpful to update that review.
Finance board member Tom Lasersohn suggested that the contract with Kroll be signed by both the Board of Education and the town so that Kroll knows that each is an equal partner in commissioning the study.
Landon rejected a suggestion that the schools rebid the security contract, saying he was very comfortable with the Kroll firm.
“I don’t like to spend that kind of money either,” he said. “But we need to do it right.”
The Representative Town Meeting (RTM) will take up the appropriation request at its March 5 meeting.
It was under questioning by RTM members at a committee meeting that disclosed that police had not had an active role in soliciting bids from security firms for the school security review.