City to ad­dress se­cu­rity con­cerns

Eval­u­a­tion ques­tions safety of Ge­orge Wilson Cen­ter

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

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.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

A re­cent se­cu­rity eval­u­a­tion found that the city is op­er­at­ing the Ge­orge Wilson Cen­ter with­out the proper se­cu­rity con­trols and sur­veil­lance.

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