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April 22, 2018

4/13/2018 7:28:00 AM
Vilas County officials discuss courthouse security options
Public property committee debates new panic button, expedited security screening proposals
Evan J. pretzer/lakeland times

Vilas County Public Property Committee and County Board chairman Ron DeBruyne has harsh words for a panic button construction proposal from Texas-based SecureTech Systems Inc. on April 10.
Evan J. pretzer/lakeland times

Vilas County Public Property Committee and County Board chairman Ron DeBruyne has harsh words for a panic button construction proposal from Texas-based SecureTech Systems Inc. on April 10.
Parking concerns
Another agenda item for the public property's meeting Tuesday included examining public parking concerns by the courthouse. After extensive discussion, the committee voted to ask the City of Eagle River to limit parking on both sides of Court Street to a maximum of two hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and to plan out spaces. When asked about potential vacant lot owners along Court Street and obtaining their lands for parking space development, DeBruyne joked about seizing the land through condemnation.

"If we come up with a value and offer it and the person doesn't accept it, we just condemn them," he said. "That will work."

Evan J. Pretzer
Lakeland Times reporter

Though new security features including a metal detector and security guards are now at the courthouse in Eagle River, the Vilas County Public Property Committee discussed more security items Tuesday.

Panic buttons

First up was discussion on installing a new panic button system within the courthouse.

In the past, the older parts of the building did have a wireless panic button system, but, over time, the system, over a decade old, occasionally failed to transmit properly and the county decided to look into new services from technology companies.

"We were able to get a couple of cost quotes," county information technology director Mike Duening said. "Kozar Technologies LLC is in front of you. They gave a quote of $40,987.16."

He said he received a verbal quote over the phone from SecureTech Systems Inc., for a WAVE Plus system.

"They said it should be within 10 percent and told us the quote for WAVE Plus was $15,600," Duening said. "They don't know exactly what we need till they dig further. This quote includes the number of buttons we need, the number of wireless extenders and installation costs."

County board chairman Ron DeBruyne reacted critically to the proposal from the Texas-based SecureTech, blasting the company for what he viewed as an inadequately explained service offer.

"To be honest I am very upset here," he said. "When I ask for a proposal, I ask for a proposal. The gentleman from Kozar gave me a proposal, this thing from SecureTech is a piece of crap. They might as well have torn pages from a Sears catalog and handed it to me. I am spending taxpayer money, if this gentleman (from The Lakeland Times) puts in the newspaper I just threw a dart at a board and picked some $15,000 pie-in-the-sky proposal over someone who worked and actually provided me with a really detailed proposal, I'd need to be chastised heavily."

In response to DeBruyne's criticisms, Duening clarified the problem with SecureTech's offer was due to their headquarters being outside Wisconsin as opposed to Kozar's being based in Eagle River.

In addition, Duening said Kozar may be able to use the technology from SecureTech if they were hired to wire the building.

Kozar founder Scott Lacko wasn't as sure, at least until he knew more.

"The location of SecureTech is a problem," Duening said. "It is difficult for them to do work in a timely fashion. Kozar is local, they are able to physically get here, the timing is not correct for WAVE Plus. In very short conversations I've had with Scott from Kozar, he believes he may be able to use WAVE Plus and have it put on top for extra cost."

"At first glance, I am sure I could have my staff work with this technology," Lacko told the committee. "I can approach other folks and see if we can bring in their product, but it all depends on territory and representation. At first glance, I am confident my staff can handle this, but I don't know about getting it."

The committee ultimately decided to table discussion on the panic button offers until Duening could obtain more information to present to them.

According to Duening, another reason why the county wanted a new panic button system was because, though the phone system in the courthouse does have an emergency button, panic buttons are needed in order for staff to reach help if under duress.

"On our phones, there is a button on the phone which says emergency which can be hit, it opens a line to the dispatch center, it does not make any noise on the reporter's end," he said. "It's somewhat covert, but the public property committee felt an under the desk one push silent system would be best."

Faster access

The committee also took up quicker building access for people.

Currently, everyone entering the building is subject to screening and whatever security procedures the county deems necessary.

A new proposal would have state employees and other government staff whose offices are not in the building but enter it frequently request staff access privileges (county employees receive door fob devices which allow them to enter through areas closed to the public and don't have to go through security) subject to review by the public property committee.

Recently, the state public defenders office in Rhinelander (which does work in Vilas County) filed a request to be treated as a county employee, causing the committee to debate whether this procedure should stay in place or if allowing more access would compromise security.

"If we allow the public defender employee access, I am absolutely positive this access will end up being extended to assistants, secretaries and their uncle Leo," committee member Walt Maciag said. "In other counties, all attorneys go through security. I am really in favor of this because what we're doing here is throwing oil on a hill which will become very slippery."

"If you shut this policy out, you don't have any recourse," Vilas County clerk David Alleman said. "We've got to have some recourse. There's going to be exceptions."

After several minutes of conversation, the committee chose to strike this policy proposal from its rules. In the future, things may change, but right now, anyone who is not a county employee will have to go through security.

"They were pretty clear they did not want this expanded at this time," Alleman said Wednesday. "But I don't think the story is over."

Evan J. Pretzer may be reached via email at evan@lakelandtimes.com.

Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, April 13, 2018
Article comment by: James Stankevich

As a technical security professional for over 40 years and someone who has seen all the various wireless technology I am surprised the county has not looked at the best product out there LYNX by Micro Technologies of Richardson TX. By far the most technically advanced. And I agree the Wave is a POC

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