AISD alarm upgrades debated

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by ANDY PIERROTTI / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @AndyP_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on April 22, 2013 at 10:03 AM

Updated Monday, Apr 22 at 11:26 AM

AUSTIN -- When the school bell signals the end of the day and the  doors are locked, Austin ISD relies on security alarms to protect its property.
 
Two months ago, the district voted to hold a nearly $1 billion bond election next month. The bonds will pay for long-term capital projects, like major renovations and new schools.
 
If approved, the districts also has bond money set aside to replace or upgrade every school intrusion alarm, including the hardware and software to operate it. The estimated cost is $3.7 million dollars.
 
An intrusion alarm’s goal is to protect the school’s property during after school hours, not necessary to keep children safe.

Over the next few years, property taxes will increase to pay for it.

"Why is this a crisis again now?” explains Roger Falk with the Travis County Taxpayer Union. He believes the upgrades are a waste of money.

He points to 2004 mailers sent to voters that explained “ever school needs a security upgrade.” A short time later, voters approved the $500 million bond package.

"Well gosh. We just let them have a half a billion dollars on that bond issuance. Where's the security upgrades?" contends Falk.

Since 2010, the districts police department responded to 110 burglaries, accounting for about $46,000 in stolen and damaged equipment.

The KVUE Defenders found, of the 124 schools in the district, 86 did not have one report of a burglary. Yet, Austin ISD maintains each school needs a new or upgraded alarm.

The upgrade also includes Blazier Elementary School. Its security system is about two years old. The district still wants to spend more than $5,000 to upgrade it.

Vincent Torres is the district’s board trustee president. He says even new alarms need replacement because the older alarms won’t be able to communicate with the upgrades.

"We're not going to just replace an intrusion alarm if there is no need to upgrade a system at a particular school unless that system is not talking to our central system to where we are monitoring those devices," argues Torres.

Long-time Austin security expert Kent Morrison says the district should refocus its resources. "In my opinion, if you have XYZ system that does 90 percent of the job, instead of gutting it and bringing in a new system that you think does 100 percent of the job, fix that 10 percent," said Morrison, owner of BSG security.

The district requested several new security cameras, but those are separate from the cost of the upgraded intrusion alarms.

The bond election is May 11. Early voting starts April 29.

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