Private security checks in Bloomington park OK’d through January pending new, broader contract

At its meeting last week, Bloomington’s board of park commissioners approved what city staff called a stopgap contract with Marshall Security,  extending the current arrangement covering Switchyard Park through January 2022.

The contract extension approved on Tuesday last week is for $7,161. The source of the money is the parks general fund, according to the board’s meeting information packet.

According to parks staff, the number of incidents occurring in Switchyard Park has decreased since the start of the private security patrols in summer 2021.

It was in June this year when the board approved a $60,588 contract  for overnight security patrols by Marshall in Switchyard Park through the end of 2021.

On Tuesday, Switchyard Park general manager Hsiung Marler told the board that the one-month contract extends the security checks for Switchyard Park just through the end of January.

The idea is for the city to put out for bids a comprehensive contract to cover not just Switchyard Park but also connecting trails and other nearby parks. That comprehensive contract would run through 2022.

In July this year, the board of park commissioners had approved a separate contract with Marshall worth $52,500, to cover the areas other than Switchyard park, during daytime hours.

The outcome of the RFP (request for proposals) and bidding process is supposed to be a contract through 2022, covering areas inside Switchyard Park and other locations on trails and nearby parks.

Other parks to be covered besides Switchyard could include: RCA Park, Seminary Park, B-Line Trail, Building Trades Park, Rev Ernest D. Butler Park, Crestmont Park, Miller-Showers Park, and Waldron Hill Buskirk Park.

Bloomington’s director of park operations, Tim Street, said at last Tuesday’s board of park commissioners meeting that an RFP for a comprehensive contract had been put together, but not executed in the planned time frame. Street said, “While we were waiting for the city budget to resolve, we just sort of ran out of time to execute that RFP and review proposals for the new year.”

In October, Bloomington’s city council delayed its approval of the 2022 annual budget for two weeks, in the course of some political wrangling with mayor John Hamilton.

Street told the board of park commissioners they were being asked to approve the stopgap contract, “because we did not want our overnight Switchyard security to lapse.”

According to Marler’s memo in the meeting information packet, the addition of Marshall’s security checks has improved the situation in Switchyard Park: “Since adding the Marshall patrols Switchyard Park has seen a reduction in late night issues of vandalism and trespassing at Switchyard Park.”

Responding to a question from the B Square, director of Bloomington parks and recreation Paula McDevitt listed out the decreasing progression of incident reports by month: July (126); August (99); September (38); October (28); and November (5).

But those decreases come with some caveats, according to McDevitt. Those decreases would also correspond to decreasing seasonal use of the park, she wrote in an email.

Also, at the start of the contract, the numbers could be high, because Marshall’s staff were not yet accustomed to the level of reporting the parks department wanted. Initially, Marshall was reporting things such as lights that were out or trash they cleaned up, according to McDevitt.

McDevitt added that there have been fewer incidents at the police substation restroom located in Switchyard Park. Parks staff have had to spend less time there on clean up.