Shortly after Thanksgiving the Hannibal public school district will begin seeking bids for a district-wide security system, according to Dana Ruhl, district business manager.


Shortly after Thanksgiving the Hannibal public school district will begin seeking bids for a district-wide security system, according to Dana Ruhl, district business manager.
“We’re waiting for some final information to come in. If we get that final information within the next week conceivably we’ll be sending these requests out right after we get back from Thanksgiving break,” he said earlier this week. “We’ll probably put those proposals out for a three week period and when they come back in we’ll take a good look at those costs and determine when to go forward. The board is extremely supportive of wanting to go forward as quickly as possible.”
Ruhl says the district will be seeking bids for a “pretty comprehensive proposal of cameras and monitors systems for this entire high school and middle school campus which will include cameras outside and inside, provide the opportunity to keep doors locked and actually be able to buzz somebody in.
“At the elementary schools the main object is to cover the main entrance or entrances and provide that same camera with audio so you can speak to the person and buzz them in and out. We would also have some cameras on the outside of the buildings.”
Why are interior cameras not planned at the elementary buildings?
“The reasoning for that is because of the incidents that can and have taken place over the years,” said Ruhl. “Graffiti has always been with us and if we can catch and stop it we want to, but beyond the typical graffiti, when things start happening like a bomb threat written on a wall, that’s something we take very seriously. That (written bomb threats) happens most of the time in restrooms. Obviously we can’t put camera systems in restrooms, but we can have camera systems outside the in hallways pointing to those entrances so you can see who is going in and out, and the camera keeps track of the date and time. We wish we didn’t have to do it, but what we really hope by virtue of students knowing that those cameras are there is it will help prevent any of that kind of activity.”
Earlier this month, vandals damaged the interior of the Hannibal Cavemen’s fieldhouse at Clemens Field. Thanks to surveillance camera footage, the juveniles were identified and taken into custody in less than 24 hours. The school district’s interest in a security system predates the recent events at the downtown ballpark.
“This is a capital project, a need that we’ve had and talked about for several years,” said Ruhl. “We have our own situations that we deal with and have dealt with over the years that would have been served better had we had those systems in place, but it’s just the overall sense of safety and security for our campuses.
“We’re looking forward to getting this system put in for the safety and security of students, employees and the general public at large when they’re in our buildings. We have parents, vendors ... lots of people in our buildings every day and so our safety extends to them as well, Our desire is to not only let our students, but our parents know that we’re doing everything we can to keep our kids safe. That is why this is being done, in addition to what’s going on in the world around us. We don’t want to be lulled into that idea that it can’t happen in Hannibal, Mo. Columbine is really no different than Hannibal, Mo. We don’t want to be lulled into thinking that it is.”
Ruhl does not believe that students will object to the heightened security.
“In my conversations with students what I’m finding is most of them are supportive of this type of thing, not looking at it as being intrusive,” he said. “We’re not looking at putting them (cameras) inside classrooms at this time. We’re looking at putting them in those hallways that might be troublesome areas as well as on the outside of buildings.”
Because the project has not yet gone out to bid, Ruhl did not wish to speculate regarding the cost of the system.
“It’s safe to say it would probably be six figures,” he said. “We’ve already had a capital projects review with our board. When those bids come in we’ll take a good look at those bids and make some determinations of what we can do.”
The public will have the opportunity to donate money to a special fund set up to pay for the new security system.
“Working through the Northeast Missouri Community Foundation there is a program sitting there so that anybody who might be interested in helping promote the safety and security of the school district through these camera systems can make donations that have a positive tax benefit,” said Ruhl. “Every dollar that we get in through that kind of program helps us not have to use dollars from our funds that can be used for classrooms. We’re always looking at it that way.”
The Riedel Foundation has pledged to help the school district defray the cost of the new security system.
“The foundation has agreed to, if the school district is able to bring in $20,000, to add $5,000 to that,” said Ruhl.