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December 26. 2012 11:15PM

Nashua moves step closer to making schools more secure

NASHUA - The Board of Aldermen moved a step closer to upgrading the security system in Nashua's 12 elementary schools and three middle schools, a reversal from 2009 when Mayor Donnalee Lozeau vetoed a similar measure.

The board gave the measure it's first reading last night and scheduled a public hearing for January 17. If adopted, it authorizes the mayor and city treasurer to issue bonds not to exceed $2,408,900 to upgrade the school access control system.

According to city clerk Paul Bergeron, the measure is now referred to the Budget Review Committee. The Board of Aldermen will take a final vote on authorizing the issuance of the bond after public hearing has been held, the Budget Review Committee discusses and recommends a course of action on the resolution, and the resolution is referred back for a second reading and final vote.

Bergeron said if the resolution passes, it will still need approval by the mayor to become effective or, if vetoed, a veto override by the Board of Aldermen.

Seven aldermen co-sponsored the legislation. The initiative was referred to the Budget Review Committee, with a public hearing scheduled for Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

The move follows the massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six staff members in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. The tragedy caused concern that main entrances are not locked during school hours at Nashua's elementary schools.

The Access Control System would include the installation of alarms and monitors on exterior doors, locks for all doors, more than 100 cameras with a centralized monitoring system and a buzz-in intercom camera system at main entrances. Existing alarm systems would be replaced; the system includes 56 panic switches and 123 proximity card readers.

Last week, the school board moved to expedite what it determined to be the most urgent pieces of the upgrade - locks on classroom doors and a buzz-in security system at main entrances. That decision is pending a special meeting scheduled for Jan. 2 to review contracting options available to the district.

The plan stems back to a 2008 recommendation by W.L. Bliss Associates of Dedham, Mass., a security systems contractor hired by the school district to develop recommendations and cost estimates relative to the Access Control System.

In July 2008, a representative from Bliss commented to the school board that the district is "in an extremely vulnerable situation regarding the ability of individual school buildings to protect their populations from trespass of unstable visitors and armed intruders."

Lozeau vetoed the initiative in light of a $3 million deficit in the school budget that year. Aldermen agreed with the mayor, failing to overturn it with a 9-3 vote.

The $2,408,900 bond would be paid over 10 years, according to the initial proposal, with annual payments of about $278,000.

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Simon Rios may be reached at srios@newstote.com.

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