Wednesday, July 02, 2014
By James Lomuscio
After more than two-and-a-half hours of roundabout debate and motions to postpone, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) tonight voted 24 to 1 with 1 abstention to approve a Board of Finance-approved school board security request of $500,000.
The money will be used to place special security film manufactured by the 3M Company on all first floor windows and doors this summer at Westport’s eight public schools. The objective is to slow down access to the schools by those who would do harm to children and teachers.
Elio Longo, school business administrator, said the 23,000 square feet of film enveloping all first floor windows and doors would delay the entry time of someone shooting his way in from three seconds to two minutes, enough time for police to respond.
RTM member David Floyd of District 4, who had questioned the “dubiousness of two minutes,” was the lone dissenter, and Peter Knight, who had voted on motions to delay the vote until July 15 and again September, abstained.
“I’m not sure if a couple of minutes will help us,” said Floyd, adding that “$500,000 is a lot of money.”
He later said that with 75 million students nationwide, even with a Sandy-Hook type shooting every day, “there would be a “.000001 percent chance of a child being killed in school.”
Concern about the request was first raised by Matthew Mandell, who said he was dismayed about turning a school into “an armed camp.” Mandell also demanded to know more about future school security appropriation requests.
In late April, the RTM approved a $200,000 Board of Education request for the installation of 1,425 high security, classroom locks recommended by Kroll Security, Inc. in response to concerns generated by the Newtown school shootings almost a year-and-a-half ago.
That appropriation followed $100,000 for the Board of Education to hire Kroll Security Advisors to perform a school system security audit working the town’s police and fire departments.
Elaine Whitney, chairwoman of the Board of Education, said $1.4 million for school security had already been figured into the mill rate for this fiscal year. The state has contributed $200,000 to full $1.6 million cost.
Mandell’s comments moved RTM member Kristan Hamlin to urge a “cost benefit analysis” of the security measures. She then made a motion to postpone the vote to September.
When others countered it was too long to wait, especially since summer would be the best time for installation, Hamlin amended her motion, saying the RTM should delay its vote until a July 15 meeting. Both motions failed.
“I was very disappointed that it would only buy two minutes,” she said of the 3M film. Hamlin said she would prefer 10 minutes.
A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., Hamlin stressed that the real threats to school children are not from the outside, but internal.
Steve Rubin agreed that the RTM should wait, adding that he was “offended by the Board of Education saying we have to do it now.”
“I take it as a threat,” he said.
Lou Mall, like the majority, opposed any delay retrofitting windows and doors.
The motion to delay to July 15 was defeated 15 to 11, and postponement September failed 23 to 3.
“Do it during the summer months when the schools are vacant,” Mall said. “I don’t want to delay for another second because our schools are vulnerable, and we have to protect our children.”
Jeff Wieser opposed postponement, saying that the school board had done “a methodical job,” following the advice of Kroll.
“It’s easy to imagine how easy it is to get in if you don’t do this,” Wieser said.
Lois Schine agreed.
“I don’t see any point in postponing this,” she said. ” ..Nothing’s perfect. Nobody can guarantee anything.”
Posted 07/02/14 at 03:09 AM Permalink