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Lack of security system prompts township review

A temporary alarm is being installed on a nightly basis, with a permanent security system on the agenda for township budget deliberations. [Will Sloan / The Observer]

With the WMC almost back to its pre-vandalized state, the question now turns to how a $23-million facility didn’t have an alarm system. The township says it’s reviewing the situation, but officials appear reluctant to outline the sequence of events that led to a system being omitted when the building opened in 2009, or detail why there’s been no action subsequently.

Nor are they eager to point a finger at those involved in the decision to forgo a security system.

A temporary alarm is being installed on a nightly basis, with a permanent security system on the agenda for township budget deliberations.[Will Sloan / The Observer]
A temporary alarm is being installed on a nightly basis, with a permanent security system on the agenda for township budget deliberations. [Will Sloan / The Observer]
“I respect the fact that people have questions about the lack of a security system,” said Woolwich chief administrative officer David Brenneman this week, adding the circumstances are “under review right now.”

It’s too soon, he argued, to piece together why the building had no alarm system. The focus since the New Year’s break-in and vandalism spree that caused some $100,000 in damage has been on the restoration, not finding blame.

Mayor Todd Cowan held to much the same line, saying Wednesday the township needs to make the repairs and move forward, including discussing an alarm system as part of this year’s budget.

“I’m more focussing on the here and now,” he said. “We’ve got an issue, we’re going to deal with it.”

The construction and opening of the Woolwich Memorial Centre predate Cowan’s time as mayor. The only current member of council involved in the project was Mark Bauman, who declined to comment on the alarm system.

“At this point, I will not comment on any questions. There are many more aspects to this discussion than only focusing on security,” he said in an email.

Two former Elmira councillors who took part in the WMC project say they don’t recall any discussions about cutting security measures from the facility.

Neither Sandy Shantz, who’s running for mayor in this year’s election, nor Ruby Weber, who was the project’s most vocal proponent on council, remember the issue being raised, though there were discussions about other cuts and changes to keep the project on budget.

“This came as a surprise to me,” said Weber of the vandalism that went undetected for hours, the perpetrators running amok unchecked in the building as the new year rolled in.

“It was never a decision at council,” she added of the omission of a security system. “We all just assumed that it would be there.”

Weber suggested that perhaps someone decided to delay the installation in order to keep the construction budget on track, planning on adding it at another time – “you put off things that can be done later.”

What actually happened will take some time to figure out, if at all, said Brenneman.

“I’m sure people want to know the ‘whys,’” he said, noting it will probably be easier to figure out those answers rather than determining who’s to blame.

While the original omission predates this term of council – though not all of the staff involved – the fact the problem was not identified and dealt with subsequently remains an issue, part of the township’s review of the incident and fallout.

“We’re hoping to get more answers,” said Cowan.

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