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Consultant hired to boost Capitol security

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Pittsburgh-based engineering firm has been awarded a $225,000 consulting contract to come up with recommendations for improving security at the state Capitol Complex.

GAI Consultants, which has an office in Charleston, was selected from among nine bidders for the General Services Division contract to study ways to enhance security on the 60-acre campus.

"This contract is aimed at evaluating and developing ideas for the design of perimeter security at the Capitol Complex," administration spokeswoman Diane Holley-Brown said of the contract.

She said the engineering team from GAI will be working with the General Services Division; Protective Services, the Capitol Complex police unit; the Division of Homeland Security; and the West Virginia National Guard to evaluate needed security upgrades on campus.

"All of their suggestions will be included in the recommendations that GAI Consultants come up with," she said.

Any recommendations for physical changes to the Capitol grounds would have to be approved by the Capitol Building Commission and then be bid out in a separate construction contract, she said.

The consulting contract follows a series of public relations debacles with Capitol Complex security. Most notably, those include public outcry after 56 concrete bollards were installed around the Capitol grounds in April 2011.

The bollards were removed and relocated to the Air National Guard headquarters at Yeager Airport three months later.

After objections from the public, state officials also backed off plans to install a 960-foot-long wrought-iron fence along the southeast edge of the campus, past the Governor's Mansion and Holly Grove.

In its bid package, GAI project leader David Gilmore noted, "The West Virginia Capitol campus requires site security that is sensitive to its rich cultural and architectural heritage. Maintaining an open, accessible campus with a welcoming park-like quality is a high priority for this project, while not sacrificing security measures."

The contract calls for GAI to evaluate the Capitol Complex campus to identify security risks, and to propose improvements, including walls, natural barriers and gates, as well as installation of physical and electronic security measures.

GAI will also examine other security options, including improved lighting, emergency intercoms, video surveillance and enhanced interagency radio communications.

One of GAI's partners in the contract is Professional Systems Engineering, which has designed and installed security systems for a number of public facilities, including the Clay Center and the Franklin County Courthouse in Columbus, Ohio.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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