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Santa Fe city panel amends security firm contract, amid questions and concerns

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This story has been corrected to provide the proper title for Thomas Williams

SANTA FE – A request to amend Santa Fe’s contract with a security company hired to install surveillance cameras throughout the city passed the City Council Finance Committee on Monday, despite concerns among some councilors.

Councilors want to take a closer look at why the project changed significantly after the contract was awarded and whether it could be subject to legal challenges from companies that didn’t get the job.

Chavez Security, owned by former City Councilor Peso Chavez, won the contract in April 2013 and installed most of the cameras. But several locations where cameras were initially slated to be located were later removed and several others were added. The cameras target parks, parking lots, trail heads, some city facilities and other sites considered high-risk for vandalism.

Committee members asked about changes and were told by representatives of the company that some of locations initially identified were either on private property, had connectivity issues or were simply not good places for cameras.

“How is it we get a bid to put cameras in places that can’t support cameras?” asked Councilor Signe Lindell. Thomas Williams, the city’s information technology director,. said that was a better question to ask the city parks’ staff, which had identified the camera locations. The committee also wanted to know if the new locations were based on crime data. Williams said he wasn’t aware of that being the case.

Councilor Joseph Maestas asked about the issue of possible protests from other bidders. City Attorney Kelley Brennan said she couldn’t immediately respond without closer study.

Council Patti Bushee agreed with Maestas that it appeared the project had gone in a new direction. “In my estimation, this whole thing should start over,” she said.

Earlier this year, Chavez Security was underbid for another major security contract for city buildings that it had held for years. A couple of councilors rallied to support Chavez but were outvoted and Chavez lost the contract. The company had held onto that contract a few years earlier despite being underbid by $540,000 over the contract term.

Monday, it came up in discussion that another Chavez Security contract for $113,000 is in the pipeline, which seemed to surprise some committee members. “I want to hear about the second part of this,” Bushee said. “This has gotten out of control.”

Maestas’ motion to amend the camera contract called for it to go before the Public Works and Public Safety committees before heading to the full council and requested a legal opinion on the risk of legal challenges. But Maestas also thanked Chavez Security for making the city aware of flaws in the project’s original design.

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