Cost of safety at UW-Rock could be $690,000

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Frank Schultz
Monday, July 15, 2013

JANESVILLE--In an age when slaughters occur on American campuses such as Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, even a little college like UW-Rock County has to take note.

UW-Rock is planning to beef up its emergency-alert system, door locks and other infrastructure at a cost estimated at $690,000.

“When it comes to security, compromise is not an option.”

That's according to a PowerPoint presentation from a consultant that assessed security systems at UW-Rock County recently.

The Rock County Board appears to agree. The board voted 22-2 last week to go ahead with an engineering study for the project, at a cost of $69,000.

The two “no” votes came from Mary Mawhinney of Avalon and Sandra Kraft of Edgerton, who thought the county should have sought bids for the project rather than simply hiring Arnold & O'Sheridan, the same consulting engineers that did the security assessment.

County rules do not require bids for “professional services,” but the county might have saved if it had sought out other companies, Mawhinney said.

Nevertheless, “I support the project. I do want our kids safe,” Kraft said.

The weakest link in UW-Rock's system is in its below-ground levels, where cell phones usually can't get a signal.

Emergency workers' radios also don't work in the lower level. That was discovered when a meeting had to be canceled there when sheriff's office officials discovered they couldn't get a radio signal there, UW-Rock Dean Carmen Wilson said.

The project calls for a “distributed antenna” to boost reception at a cost of $124,500.

New and renovated areas completed in 2008 already have video surveillance, intercom, automated exterior door locks and other safety features, Wilson said, but the project would extend those to the entire campus.

UW-Rock also would get emergency-call boxes in parking lots and other areas of the campus so anyone could contact emergency dispatch at any time. That system is estimated to cost $50,000.

An emergency mass-notification system is estimated to cost $55,500. The campus has a phone-notification system now, but the new one would include email, text alerts, paging, campus message boards and handheld radios, according to the consultant's presentation.

The project includes landline telephones in every classroom that doesn't have them, which also would help with emergency notifications, Wilson said.

UW-Rock's original request to the county was just for the mass-notification system, but Arnold & O'Sheridan found other weaknesses and made the case for more improvements, Wilson said.

Safety is a primary concern, and the improvements “will help us all feel a bit better about being able to protect people in case of emergency,” Wilson said.

After the engineering study is completed, the county board will be asked to fund the project. Typically, such funding comes through borrowing, said Rob Leu, county director of general services.

Wilson said the new systems could be in place by fall 2014.

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