The Mid-City Security District hopes to attract bids for a system of crime cameras from security companies headquartered in the neighborhood, Chairman Jim Olsen said at a meeting of the district’s board of commissioners last week.
A request for proposals has been reviewed by board members and lawyers and is almost finished, he said. The request will ask for bids to install crime cameras in Mid-City as part of a system to be overseen by the security district.
District officials hope to send the request to the city and make it public by Aug. 31. At that point, the district will contact security companies based in Mid-City in hopes that a neighborhood-based firm will seek the work.
“We’re going to try to keep it local as much as possible,” Olsen said.
He said he knows of at least two potential bidders in the neighborhood.
Not everyone is pleased with the idea. Several members of the community, including Mid-City Business Association President Josef Wright, had pushed for the district to get the cameras through ProjectNOLA, a nonprofit company based in Harahan that has set up hundreds of cameras around the city at the request of home and business owners.
In fact, the district initially sought a quote from ProjectNOLA for the work. But Olsen said the nonprofit’s price was uncomfortably close to a $30,000 threshold that triggers a legal requirement for public agencies to go through a competitive bidding process.
“The initial estimates provided at a meeting convened by Councilmember (Susan) Guidry between ProjectNOLA, MCSD, an independent camera installation contractor, and representatives from Councilmember (LaToya) Cantrell’s office yielded an estimated cost of roughly $28,000,” Olsen wrote in a letter to Wright and other Mid-City residents in May.
That price was a bit of an extrapolation. Olsen’s estimate of $28,000 covered the cost for 32 cameras as quoted by ProjectNOLA — plus 32 installations provided by an independent contractor and monthly costs associated with recording the video at ProjectNOLA’s facility. ProjectNOLA’s quote did not put an exact figure on those extras.
“The estimate provided did not include an actual installation cost but did mention an independent installation contractor and his possible cost in the comments section of the bid,” Olsen wrote.
“The sum of the associated costs would be over $27,000, an amount within 10 percent of the $30,000 threshold,” Olsen wrote. That, he said, led the district’s commissioners to conclude they needed to issue an RFP.
In a statement, however, ProjectNOLA founder Bryan Lagarde said his quote had been inflated by the district’s attempt to put a figure on those extra costs.
“To set the record straight, please kindly note that our quote came in at $15,200, which included 32 ProjectNOLA 3mp HD crime camera kits. I do not understand why Mr. Olsen claims that our quote came in close to $30k,” Lagarde said.
He added that the quote would have come in “significantly lower” than that had Olsen accepted the kits ProjectNOLA normally provides. Instead, the district asked for higher-quality cameras, Lagarde said.
Wright also raised questions about Olsen’s stated preference for a Mid-City company. Requests for proposals differ from public bids in that the work need not be awarded to the firm with the lowest price.
“How can this be described as a ‘public bid’ if only certain companies are allowed to bid?” Wright asked. “How can it be legal? ‘Keeping it local’ is more important than getting the best cameras? This is taxpayers’ money!”
The Mid-City Security District was first approved by voters in 2008 and was reauthorized in 2014. One of the largest of the city’s numerous neighborhood security districts, it is bounded by Tulane Avenue, Interstate 10, City Park Avenue, West Moss Street, Orleans Avenue and North and South Broad Street.
The district levies an annual fee on each lot in the neighborhood with a building on it. For 2014, the district’s board set the fees at $200 for residential properties and $300 for commercial ones, generating close to $1 million a year. All of the money goes to security measures, mainly extra patrols by NOPD officers.