A Memphis-based company contracted by the Bell administration to supply and install about 150 surveillance cameras in Toledo to help fight crime said Wednesday it is committed to hiring its workers and subcontractors for the project locally.
The statements to The Blade by John Osteen, vice president for sales and marketing for ESI Companies, laid to rest fears expressed by some city councilmen Tuesday that the firm would bring in workers and subcontractors from Tennessee to implement the $1.6 million project.
Speaking with the Blade, Mr. Osteen said the company will send some of its own experts from Memphis to get the project started and connect with local contractors, but the bulk of the work force for the project will be from Toledo.
"We manufacture the equipment that we use and then all of our assembly and repairs and service and installation will all be local," Mr. Osteen said. "Only the startup of the project will be managed and started from someone from the management team here, but the work will be turned over once we subcontract it out to the local businesses."
He said he could not say how many local people would be hired for the project because he is still waiting for specifications from the city. Police Chief Derrick Diggs has indicated he wants about 150 cameras, but department officials said this week the locations for camera installation have yet to be solidified. Mr. Osteen said he is also waiting to find out the exact type and number of cameras the city will require. Cameras can come with a variety of features, including license-plate recognition and gun-shot detection.
"They have to give us a scope of how many and what kind and where we're going to install them," he said. "Once we get that, we will start the process of going out and getting proposals from local contractors and businesses in that area."
ESI also plans to set up an office in Toledo to provide maintenance and service to the city for the cameras and market the company's products to neighboring communities. Two or three local people will be hired to staff the office, Mr. Osteen said.
"We're planning to be a partner and involved in the city of Toledo and its residents, just like any normal business would be that moves to an area," the executive said.
The Blade also reviewed contract and bidding documents related to the camera project. ESI was one of four companies which bid on the work and all were from outside the Toledo area. The others were Motorola, Broadview Heights, Ohio; Xtivity of Elmhurst, Ill., and CelPlan Technologies of Reston, Va.
ESI bid about $755,000; the other three bids ranged between $1 million and $1.2 million, based on initial specifications by the city for 75 cameras. Chief Diggs has said he plans to expand the project and asked last month to double the number of cameras, which upped the cost of the project to $1.6 million -- being paid for through the city's capital improvements fund, grants, and a law enforcement trust fund.
A selection committee recommended ESI Jan. 23; Mayor Bell signed off on the contract award March 30. The chief said he hopes to have the project in place before the summer season.
A $69,000 contract to build a Real Time Crime Center inside police department headquarters to monitor the camera feeds was awarded to the Toledo firm Comte Construction Company, city spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said.
Councilman Lindsay Webb, who on Tuesday said she was concerned Toledo-area companies had been overlooked in the bidding process, expressed relief at the news. Ms. Webb said she had based her concerns on conversations with local contractors. The Blade attempted to contact two contractors Wednesday. One did not return calls. Another said he had no specific information and declined to speak on the record.
"We want to make sure that when we make expenditures of this magnitude, that whenever possible local people are doing the work," Ms. Webb said. "This satisfies the questions that I had, and it could have been avoided if [ESI] had been transparent about hiring intentions from the outset."
Councilman D. Michael Collins, who had also been concerned about ESI's hiring intentions, said he was pleased to learn of Mr. Osteen's comments. "I'm very pleased," Mr. Collins said. "My big fear was that we would not see any gainful employment as a result of the installation of the cameras as well as the creation of the Real Time Crime Center. It shows good faith on the part of the vendor, and I think this makes for a very solid working relationship."
His sentiments were echoed by councilman Paula Hicks-Hudson.
"That's good to hear. That means there will be positive economic impact for the men and women who work in the city and do business in the city," she said.
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at email@example.com or 419-724-6272.