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Security camera issue starts Ringgold debate

| Thursday, March 19, 2009

NEW EAGLE - A decision over whether to hire a firm to put new security cameras at the high school touched off a spirited debate among members of the Ringgold School Board and administration Wednesday night.

During the board's regular monthly session, a motion was made to hire Sonitrol Security Systems at a cost of $62,775 to put the new cameras and four digital video recorders at the high school.

Board member Chuck Smith said the district could save $40,000 if it allowed its own maintenance staff to do the project. The only difference was it may take the work another month or so to be completed.

"It's a $40,000 savings to the district," Smith told his colleagues. "Money is money."

Jim Miller, the district's director of transportation and maintenance, told the board his staff could do the job at two-thirds of the cost that the security systems firm had offered.

The debate often turned contentious as Smith and board president Denise Kuhn returned verbal volleys over the topic.

During his passionate plea to have the job done in-house, Smith also exchanged words with fellow director Mariann Bulko and the district's business manager, Randy Skrinjorich.

Ottie Caruso, the district's head of security, said the security camera system currently in place at the school "is lacking" and needs to be updated as soon as possible.

"I think our camera system is bad, at best," Caruso told the board. "It needs to be done and done now."

Smith asked Caruso if there were any new issues had occurred that dictate that the district cannot afford to wait "another couple months" until Miller's maintenance staff could put the camera system in.

"Is it possible to put this off another couple months to allow Jim Miller to save us $40,000?" Smith asked Caruso. "I think that's a good deal for the taxpayers."

Director Marie Ripepi then asked Miller if having two of his seven-person staff working on the project would cause other maintenance jobs to be neglected. She said some spring sports programs are getting under way that call for extended maintenance.

During the exchanges, Smith twice moved to table the vote and each time his motion died for a lack of a second.

Later, Director Christopher Carroll made a motion to table and his motion failed to garner enough support.

But Smith was not deterred.

"Our maintenance man says he can do the job and it might take a month longer, but it will save $40,000 to the district," he said.

Superintendent Gary Hamilton then asked Miller if his staff could, indeed, put the security system in at the high school in a month's time.

"Give us a month," Miller responded.

The board later went into executive session and, when it returned, voted to allow Miller to purchase the equipment needed at a cost not to exceed $16,000.

The motion passed by a 7-1 vote with only Cherie Curdie voting no. Director William Stein was absent.

Afterward Kuhn said the board decided to look into what the labor costs would be to have the job done internally.

"(Miller) can purchase the cameras and either his staff will do the job or we will see what the price of labor is," she said. "It will obviously be cheaper (to be done in-house) than what we were going to do."

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