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Baldwin-Whitehall School District security deal not unanimous

| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

A new, three-year contract with the Baldwin-Whitehall School District's security firm comes as a gift, with the inclusion of a one-time, 2 percent increase in costs, the board president said.

Yet others had their concerns, after the district has been working under terms of an expired contract with AlliedBarton Security Services since 2005.

“And we're not going to put this out for public bid?” board member Martin Michael Schmotzer said at a meeting on Feb. 12. “I'm not going to support this.”

In 2008, the district gave the security firm, which provides eight security guards spread out between the middle and high school buildings, a 2 percent increase in rates. The district spent about $250,000 on security guards in the 2012-13 school year.

Board members in a 6-3 vote agreed to a three-year contract with AlliedBarton, based in Conshohocken, Montgomery County, for security services, that includes a 2 percent increase in rates. “If we are not dissatisfied with this service, I would be very cautious about going out to bid,” board President Larry Pantuso said. “This is a gift. I think we say, ‘Thank you,' and accept it.”

Board members Diana Kazour, Patricia Nixon and Schmotzer dissented.

Schmotzer warned his colleagues that they're walking on a “slippery slope” by accepting the contract. He said he doesn't think it qualifies as a professional service, and the district should seek proposals from other firms.

“I think you'd be hard pressed to say that a $10 per-hour employee is a professional service,” Schmotzer said. “I think you're really stretching the limits.”

School districts in Pennsylvania are not required to seek bids for professional services, business manager Mark Cherpak said.

For other purchases, they must advertise for bids or request proposals for any purchase greater than $19,300, and seek three written quotes for any purchase greater than $10,500, Cherpak said.

Past practice in Baldwin-Whitehall, though, has been to seek requests for proposals for such contracts, he said.

The new contract with AlliedBarton allows the district to exit the agreement with 30 days notice, without cause, Superintendent Randal Lutz said. If district leaders wanted to pursue requests for proposals to seek a lower cost, they still could do that while working under the new contract with AlliedBarton.

The contract also allows the district to add a security guard at each of the three elementary schools, as district officials have discussed, for the remainder of the year, at the given rate, Lutz said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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