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Bel Air commissioners approve contract to bring police department into '21st Century'

One of the three contracts awarded by the Bel Air town commissioners during Monday night's meeting will help bring the town's police department into the 21st Century, one of the commissioners said.

A contract for $7,467 was awarded Harford Alarm for audio/visual equipment for the Bel Air Police Department. Police Chief Leo Matrangola said Monday the contract includes recording equipment, training, a 36-month warranty and a mute button for when lawyers are present.

The police department does not have audio/visual capabilities, Matrangola said, and the deputies have to use hand held recorders. The department has access to the Harford County Sheriff's Office equipment in Forest Hill, but it is often inconvenient or unavailable, he added.

The Harford County State's Attorney Office "strongly suggests" this system for use in homicides, rapes, serious first-degree assaults, burglaries and robberies, Matrangola said, and there is pending legislation that would require it for use in homicides. The audio/visual equipment would also provide additional protection for police offices in cases of alleged misconduct, he said.

Commissioner David Carey, a criminal defense attorney, recommended the system as well, saying it helps the prosecution and defense and can save both from days of litigation.

"It's part of police work in the 21st century and I think it's a good expense," he said.

Parking garage modernization

A contract for $151,702 was awarded to Thyssenkrupp Elevator in Linthicum to modernize the two elevators in the parking garage.

The funds are budgeted in the capital improvements reserve fund established by the town and Harford County for such projects and the county procurement office supports the bid, Public Works Director Randolph Robertson said.

The modernization will replace everything except for the structural support of the elevators and the jack mechanisms that lift the elevator, he added. The renovations are expected to take five weeks per elevator and will be done separately, so at least one elevator is available at all times.

Robertson also briefly discussed a contract awarded to Angler Environmental for $11,975 for repairs at the Roland Place development's stormwater management pond. When the pond was converted from a sediment pond to stormwater management, the town entered an agreement to inspect it and after an inspection this past year, they discovered the pond had not been maintained.

There is no homeowners association, Robertson said, so they notified the 31 households of the repairs, which will cost $386 per household, not including the recently passed $30 per day, per year administrative fee. The $386 will be spread out over two years, he added, and if it is not paid by the March 1 deadline, the town will place a lien on the residence.

Town ethics code

The town commissioners also approved a new ethics law and received a resolution to amend fees associated with the town ethics law. The state ethics commission notified the town in September that its ethics code did not meet the requirement, Administration Director Joyce Oliver said.

The newly-approved law contains the state's recommendations, which include new regulations for local officials, she added. Commissioner Robert Preston suggested the ethics law may be overkill for a jurisdiction the size of Bel Air, but Carey said the state wanted the ethics law to be as strict for local officials as it is for state officials.

Carey also said it wasn't easy to read but is fair.

There will be a public hearing April 2 at the next town meeting, Oliver said, to discuss the fee amendment, which includes fines and penalties for officials who do not disclose financial information and for official employee violation of the chapter.

The town commissioners also recognized the work done by Jim Welch, public relations manager in the Department of Economic Development.

Upcoming meeting

The next meeting of the Bel Air town commissioners is April 2 at 7:30 p.m. in town hall.

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