The thought of installing a fingerprint-scanning biometric security system at a local day care center was too much for some Aspen City Council members, who held off on making a decision Monday on a set of proposals for the Yellow Brick building.
Following the shooting massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., parents of kids enrolled in childcare programs at the city-owned Yellow Brick building began talking about a need for better security at the facility where 150 infants, toddlers and young children attend day care each day, said Shirley Ritter, director of the city’s Kids First program.
The Yellow Brick put out a request in February for companies to propose ways to beef up security at the building, and received numerous responses. Since January, all 21 exterior doors have been locked during the day, except for certain high-traffic hours when parents are picking off and dropping off kids.
The Yellow Brick is located in the West End. Besides childcare services, it houses offices for two city departments and two nonprofits in the basement.
The preferred security proposal, from Proguard Protection Services of Basalt, would outfit 16 of the exterior doors with code-access keypads. Teachers and other staff members would have access to those doors. Three of the main entrance doors would have the fingerprint-scanning technology that parents or other family members could be able get in and out of.
Proguard’s proposal also includes an intercom system, surveillance cameras and panic buttons installed in each classroom.
Councilman Derek Johnson said the biometric aspect of the plan was too much for him.
“Overall I feel like … we are swinging the pendulum way too far here,” said Johnson, whose three children have attended day care at the Yellow Brick. “[Biometrics are] cool, it’s Star Trek, but it’s not something I want in this facility. … It’s not part of what I want my children to know as Aspen.”
Frank Bauer, president of Proguard, said the biometric technology is easier to manage and more effective than key cards, which are easily lost or transferred to someone who isn’t supposed to be in the building. With fingerprint-scans, people can be easily added or deleted from the system, and there is no concern about lost or stolen information.
Overall, council members said they would be willing to consider increased security measures at the Yellow Brick, but they were wary of the Yellow Brick’s request to approve funding for the work at next week’s City Council meeting. Proguard’s proposal has a $91,000 to a $98,000 price tag, depending on whether the city wants to create a system that could be integrated in other government buildings.
Council members suggested more outreach to parents to see what level of security they feel is appropriate, and make sure all the staff members of the multiple childcare programs at the Yellow Brick are on board. Yellow Brick staff will come back to council at a later date with more information.
Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland also expressed concern that creating a high-security facility at the Yellow Brick would be sending the wrong message to kids.
“How far do we go in creating a security state until kids see themselves as detainees?” Ireland said.