Our Views: Security upgrades at UW-Rock look reasonable, measured

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Monday, July 22, 2013
Officials cannot assume that violence will never come to quiet little UW-Rock County on Janesville's south side.
Not when our nation has seen shootings on college campuses, including the 2007 slaughter at Virginia Tech that killed 32 and wounded 17. In 2008, blood was spilled as close as Northern Illinois in DeKalb, where a gunman killed five people and wounded 21 before committing suicide. No one needs reminding that unspeakable violence can come to the smallest schools, such as Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
A consultant found many security shortcomings at UW-Rock. So it made sense for the Rock County Board to approve an engineering study for upgrades estimated to cost $690,000. The work could be finished by fall 2014. The sooner, the better.
Lack of communications in rooms below ground is among the biggest issues. Cellphones usually cannot get signals from these spots. Even radios of emergency workers don't work there. That was revealed when sheriff's officials had to cancel a meeting because they couldn't get radio signals.
A specialized antenna to boost reception would cost $124,500. While a campus expansion and improvement project completed in 2008 included security measures, older parts of campus that don't have video surveillance, intercom service, automated exterior door locks and other safety features would get them. Classrooms that don't have land-line telephones would likewise get these. Emergency call boxes would cost $50,000 and let anyone place an emergency call from most anywhere on campus, including parking lots.
In this age of technology and social media, the campus would be wise to invest in an emergency mass-notification system for an estimated $55,000. It already has a phone notification system, but the new one would incorporate email, text alerts, paging, message boards and handheld radios.
All of this spending will fall on county taxpayers. That's because UW-Rock is a partnership in which the county pays for the land, buildings and upkeep while the UW System pays for employees, furnishings and other needs. Funding for the security improvements will return to the county board for approval and may require borrowing. So be it. The upgrades look like measured, reasonable steps to shore up deficiencies.
We do, however, join board supervisors Mary Mawhinney and Sandra Kraft in questioning the hiring of the same company, consultant Arnold & O'Sheridan, to now do the engineering study for $69,000. Mawhinney and Kraft registered the lone “no” votes because they wondered if the county could save money by seeking bids.
The county is not obligated to seek bids for “professional services.” Maybe this company, with offices in Madison and Brookfield, is the best in the business. But absent a bidding process, how can supervisors assure residents that they're getting the best deal possible?

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