City to address security concerns
Evaluation questions safety of George Wilson Center
A $23,000 project will address “multiple concerns” about the safety of city employees, guests and children who attend programs at the George Wilson Center, officials said.
The community center on New London Road is home to a variety of Newark Parks and Recreation Department classes and programs — for children and adults — and is often rented out for birthday parties and other events.
Parks and Recreation Director Joe Spadafino said the concerns came to light during a recent walk-through of the building by Deputy Police Chief Mark Farrall and other officials.
Spadafino emphasized the walkthrough was not prompted by a specific incident or threat.
“We thought it was time to get a good safety evaluation from professionals,” he said. “Thank goodness we have not had an incident in the building, but we need to take preventative measures.”
The officials “concluded the city has been operating this facility without the proper security controls and surveillance,” Spadafino said.
The building has no surveillance cameras inside or outside, and there are multiple entry points that provide hidden access to areas of the building not visible to staff.
The city plans to install security cameras, a key-card entry system for authorized staff members and an intercom system for buzzing visitors into the building.
Due to the urgency of the project, Spadafino asked city council Monday to approve a budget amendment to use money from the city’s reser ve fund to pay for the security upgrades. The $23,000 will pay for the intercom system and cameras on the main floor of the building, which Spadafino called the “tip of the iceberg,” adding that he eventually wants to install more cameras in the parking lot and behind the building.
Council unanimously approved the project and told Spadafino to come back with a proposal to fund the rest of the needed upgrades.
“We’ve got, theoretically, millions in the reserves fund,” Councilman Mark Morehead said. “If this is an issue, let’s do it ... Let’s not do half of it or twothirds of it.”
“Now it’s out here in the open, I don’t think we can wait on it any longer,” Councilman Stu Markham added. “It sounds very disconcerting.”
The initial upgrades will be completed by the end of the year, Spadafino said.
Also on Monday, council OK’d a $66,000 project to upgrade the George Wilson Center’s kitchen, which no longer meets state code requirements to operate as a public kitchen. Because of the new code requirements, the city had to relocate last year’s community Thanksgiving breakfast, and the kitchen can no longer be used by caterers hired by those renting the center.
The city will hire contractor Amakor, Inc., to install a commercial-grade oven, a commercial-grade dishwasher, new cabinets, a new refrigerator, fireretardant walls and other equipment. Spadafino expects the work to take about 30 days.
A recent security evaluation found that the city is operating the George Wilson Center without the proper security controls and surveillance.