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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Finance Board Delays Vote on School Security Study

By James Lomuscio

After more than two hours of discussions, Westport’s Board of Finance voted unanimously tonight to delay for at least a week a decision on a school board request of $100,000 for an outside school security study until the police, fire and emergency services departments could be involved.

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Westport Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon addresses the Board of Finance tonight as Board of Education Chairman Elaine Whitney looks on. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon and Elaine Whitney, school board chairwoman, made the $100,000 request, $50,000 more than an original request approved by the finance board last month, to hire Kroll Advisory Solutions, an internationally renowned security firm, to conduct the study in the wake of the Dec. 14 Newtown shootings that claimed 28 lives.

Saying that he wanted “the best for our children” and that there was “none better” than Kroll, Landon touted the company, saying it has broad, high profile experience working for the Pentagon and overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Finance board member Michael Rea said he had professional experience working with Kroll, and called it a quality company.

“You can’t go wrong with Kroll, but they are the most expensive,” said Rea, surmising that the price tag would be between $15,000 and $20,000 more than other qualified firms.

But it was not so much the price that had Board of Finance members concerned as it was fact that the Board of Education initiated Kroll proposal did not seek input from the town’s first responders, including Police Chief Dale Call, who was present at the meeting, and Fire Chief Andrew Kingsbury, who also serves as the town’s emergency coordinator.

“Chief Call has to be involved in looking at the study and in responding to proposals in the study,” said Tom Lasersohn, finance board member.

Helen Garten of the finance board pointed out that the Kroll proposal stated that its findings would be shared only with “officials in the Westport school district.”

Call noted that “nobody invited us” to be involved in the study.

Finance board members argued that such a study would require broad community input in order to be implemented rather than just be another expensive security study such as one conducted by another firm in 2006 that apparently was only partially implemented. More expensive recommendations were deferred, Landon said.

“At the end of the day, when a study gets done, how does it get implemented?” asked Call.

He said that the town’s police, fire and EMS, as well as town officials should have input once the completed study, “one silo with everybody in it.”

Avi Kaner, finance board chairman said he would have expected an assessment committee to have looked at the 2006 plan “and then come up with a plan to go forward.”

“Why would we leave a study on a shelf and not even look at it and spend $100,000 on a new study that doesn’t involve the police?” asked Kaner.

Landon promised that if the finance board approved his request tonight, he would put together a broad task force to implement the study.

“I can get a statement from Kroll to say the chief will be intimately involved,” he said.

In the end, the board voted unanimously to delay the vote at least a week to allow Landon time to contact Kroll and for local emergency services to study the proposal.

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff told the board that after consulting with Call, he had decided not to spend almost $33,000 on a proposed Kroll security study of town buildings.

Instead, he said he had asked the police chief to work with Public Works Director Steve Edwards and town officials to come up with their own recommendations.

“We’d rather spend the money on actually implementing improved security efforts rather than on a study,” Joseloff said.

He said he was also proposing security funding for town buildings in his 2013-14 budget.


Posted 02/07/13 at 04:44 AM


Comment Policy

Wow!  How do you not involve players from your own team?  Remember too, this was $100k for a STUDY…not even the cost to implement.  What a save from what could have been a complete and absolute mismanagement of funds.

Posted by Rick Spoon on February 07, 2013 at 09:03 PM | #

Rick, the BOF didn’t make this save. It was RTM members who originally brought up the point about the lack of Police and Fire input and participation.

The RTM also questioned why there was only one bid to discuss. (yeah yeah the BOE is not required to, but still what is right from a fiduciary perspective?) The BOF had a grasp on this issue, then dropped it, even though they had two letters from like firms saying they could do it for the original 50K.

Posted by Matthew Mandell on February 08, 2013 at 02:50 AM | #

Thank you RTM!

Posted by Rick Spoon on February 08, 2013 at 01:54 PM | #

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