For quite some time, the Department of Water Management has used a lousy choice for Security Guards to protect the Drinking water of Chicagoland. Chicago choose a company that is not even located in Chicago. I know the Chicago Inspector General was aware of this company because I reported them as just another form of “Hired Trucks”. If you read the contract they promise some top guards, but the workers on site were never on certain posts. The “officers” guarding the entrance of the 3901 S. Ashland post was never in the post because, “there is no heat”.
The two ladies would chat in the front entryway all night. The guard in the back would watch t.v. all night and had nothing to do except guard a pile of dirt at the transfer station. These guards are paid about $10.00 – $10.50 per hour and they do not receive any health and welfare benefits. In the contract with the city Honor-Guard promised benefits and health employees with a military background. They also subcontracted to two “Minority” subcontractors to have a minority presence. The guard at 39th and Iron, in the middle of the street was doing nothing for months and nobody in management noticed? I say fire more of the management. Excellent job Sun-times and star journalist Fran Spielman. According to the story, Jan Pestka actually did a good job? Also the guards never received paid training according to two of the guards. Read story below. Photo by Patrick McDonough
]]>Gulp! How safe is our water?
CITY HALL | Private security company gets flushed after guards found sleeping on the job
October 22, 2007
BY FRAN SPIELMAN AND FRANK MAIN Staff Reporters/[email protected] [email protected]
A private security company’s unarmed guards have been yanked out of the city’s two water filtration plants amid concerns about safeguarding Chicago’s drinking water.
Honor Guard Security was hired last December to protect the Jardine and South water filtration plants, 12 pumping stations and Department of Water Management repair and maintenance facilities. The $13.3 million contract was to expire in 2011 but is now being rebid.
Honor Guard Security was hired last year to protect the Jardine Water Filtration Plant at 1000 E. Ohio, among other sites.
Water Management employees found gaping holes in the company’s performance, City Hall sources said.
“They were sleeping. They weren’t where they were supposed to be. The change really was necessary to protect the integrity of the plants. It’s not like guarding salt piles. This is one of the highest terrorist targets in the country,” said a source familiar with the review.
The firm was hired to provide security for several city departments, even though Water Management officials ranked it “dead last” among a handful of finalists.
Water Management’s $117,720-a-year security chief Janet Pestka, a retired Chicago Police assistant deputy superintendent, was outspoken about what she viewed as Honor Guard’s inability to handle such a sensitive assignment. After writing a letter of protest, she was reassigned to the job of director of internal audits. Two months later, she resigned.
Pestka could not be reached for comment.
Now City Hall has done an about-face. Last month, Honor Guard’s unarmed employees were removed from the Jardine and South filtration plants and replaced with city employees serving as watchmen.
Honor Guard — whose bid documents stated that 75 percent of its security officers are military veterans and 5 percent are “current or prior law enforcement officers” — continues to secure Water Management’s less-sensitive facilities.
Courtnai McCurdy, a vice president of the company, said the criticism of the employees is not fair.
“We have not been given a clear reason” for why the employees were pulled from the Jardine and South filtration plants, McCurdy said. “We have been told that, contractually, they can reassess their needs at any time and make changes.”
The company received only a few days’ notice of the changes, McCurdy said. “They did not give us a 30-day notice.”
“It was very clear from day one that they did not want the contract to go to us,” McCurdy added.
Water Management spokesman Tom LaPorte would only say, “The city reserves the right to solicit bids, based on our changing needs. … We use both watchmen who are city workers and private security firms.”
Lake Michigan water purified and pumped through Water Management facilities supplies drinking water to Chicago and 125 suburbs.
Concern about the vulnerability of Chicago’s water system goes back to Sept. 11, 2001. Shortly after the attacks, City Hall temporarily evicted all private contractors from Water Management facilities. The ban continued for several weeks, long enough for criminal background checks on more than 2,200 people with access to secure areas.
Water Management also replaced a former fork-lift driver with Pestka as in-house security chief, hired Aargus Security to assist Chicago Police officers stationed at Jardine and hired a private consultant.
At the time, Pestka talked about banning private vehicles from Jardine, 1000 E. Ohio, and using bomb-sniffing dogs and mirrors to inspect beneath employee vehicles. One secret report concluded that an attack on a chlorine truck entering the Jardine facility could create a catastrophe downtown.
The possibility of opening a police station on the Jardine grounds was also discussed, along with no longer allowing city employees to park at the plant when they go to nearby Navy Pier. It was not known whether any of these changes had been implemented.
“It’s not like guarding salt piles. This is one of the highest terrorist targets in the country.