Proposal to cancel RTD’s security contract dismissed in lopsided vote
A proposal before an RTD committee that would have canceled the agency’s security contract was voted down Tuesday night by an overwhelming 14-1 margin.
Director Shontel Lewis, who authored the proposal, which was before the operations and customer service committee, was the only member to vote yes.
The resolution, if passed, would have set in motion the termination of Allied Universal Security’s $22 million annual contract by the end of the year and the ending of agreements allowing officers with metro police departments to moonlight as security guards for RTD.
In all, the resolution would have freed up $27.3 million in spending, money which would have been used, according to the proposal, to hire outreach workers — including professionals with mental-health training — to replace security officers.
RTD members who voted down the proposal voiced multiple concerns with it, although most said that the conversation about improving RTD’s security should continue and move forward in tangible forms.
Kate Williams, who represents District A and who chaired the committee meeting, said the agency needs to look at a variety of alternatives about improving or changing security, but terminating Allied’s security contract and reallocating funding is problematic.
“We are not a human service agency,” Williams said. “We are a transportation agency. We move people and we do it well. RTD’s job is to provide transportation.”
Williams said RTD works with social and public health partners, and the agency provides discounted transportation to seniors, students and other “special service” groups, including income-based discounts, to help people who rely on public transportation.
Some committee members said they’ve received multiple phone calls and emails from RTD drivers and operators, and the public, about safety concerns if security is reduced or cut. Concerns were raised about drivers and operators quitting in response to a lack of security, exacerbating a shortage that already exists.
Lewis said that the $27.3 million in funding, freed by cancellation of the security contract, could have been used in a variety of ways, including paying down debt. She also noted that security pay averages about $34 per hour and operators average about $25, so more drivers could be hired if less money was spent on security.
The proposal would have created a “pot of money,” which could have been used, in part, for “community input solutions.”
The public, “those who pay, should be closest to the decision-making,” Lewis said.
Disappointed with the lopsided vote, Lewis expressed dismay that other members did not chime in on the proposal, which has been afloat since June, prior to Tuesday’s meeting.
“We haven’t made the commitment to address what this would look like,” Lewis said. “I’m not comfortable with the status quo, I hope we continue (to look at options).”
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