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You Paid For It: Taxpayers overpay for security contract linked to LDC scandal

The interior of the Monroe County's Monitoring and Response Center is shown here. The operations were taken back from a third party operator for a savings to taxpayers of over $500,000 a year. (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - Bid rigging charges. Criminal convictions. The scandal involving Monroe County LDCs may be over, but 13WHAM News has learned taxpayers were left on the hook for an expensive security contract.

The "You Paid for It" investigation starts inside Building 400 on the Greater Rochester International Airport property. In a large garage, mobile communications command trucks are staged and ready to go. MCU-1 is able to dispatch police, fire and EMS from any remote location. MCU-4 has mapping capabilities that were recently used by police to search and locate a shooter loose in a stolen vehicle in a Durand neighborhood.

Building 400 also houses the backup 911 center and other security equipment and data storage "off limits" to cameras.

"There are portions of this building that we're not able to show you for security reasons," said Monroe County Director of Public Safety Bob Burns. "From the moment you enter the building, you're under video surveillance."

Monroe County Safety and Security Systems, an LDC, entered into contracts to purchase these items on behalf of the county. At stake: $220 million of taxpayer money. The criminal case found fault with how some of the contracts were awarded but did not answer the question, 'Did taxpayers get what they paid for?'

There is one small change that has been made since the criminal case which suggests - maybe not.

That change involves the Monitoring and Response Center (MRC). Two years ago, 13WHAM News was given exclusive access to MRC which took over Building 400's sweeping second floor. Armed with computers and special software, two security officers monitored security cameras located at all Monroe County buildings from this single location.

The LDC hired a third-party to run MRC for $767,472 per year, when it could have run a similar operation for about a third of that.

Monroe County has taken back the operation and runs it for $256,962 per year. "By doing that, we saved significant taxpayer dollars by eliminating a third party entity that was delivering critical functions that have returned to county government," said Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo.

13WHAM News interviewed Dinolfo inside the new MRC. The operation has been moved. It continues to monitor all 117 county buildings, in addition to public locations such as Frontier Field. It also incorporates images from 515 security cameras at those locations. Similar software allows for one person to oversee 515 remote security cameras on various buildings.

It may not look as impressive, but this single change saves taxpayers more than half a million dollars a year.

"We were not looking at impressive. We were looking at effective, efficient, safe and making sure we didn't lose a step as far as monitoring these critical cameras to keep our employees and visitors safe," said Burns.

Over the duration of the two years under the LDC, this single contract cost taxpayers $1 million more than it could have.

Monroe County said taking back the contract and refinancing LDC debt will save taxpayers $11 million through 2029.

"By bringing those services back in house, eliminating the middle man, it really helps taxpayers in the long run because it saves dollars," said Dinolfo. " I'm proud of what we've done."

Dinolfo made a campaign promise to dissolve the LDCs and take over their operations. Three of the four no longer exist.

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