Port of Baltimore to Get Security Upgrades

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Two contracts intended to improve security at the Port of Baltimore were approved Wednesday by the Board of Public Works.

A company based in Omaha, Neb. will be paid $5.5 million to install cameras to allow remote monitoring of port facilities and to improve physical barriers at gates to prohibit unauthorized vehicles from entering port grounds.

The board also agreed to spend $432,922 to buy 17 hand-held detectors that port officials said are capable of detecting more than 40 types of explosives, chemical weapons agents and narcotics. The devices will be used at truck and vehicle gates.

A study by the Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security listed 66 ports across the country, including Baltimore, that are considered especially susceptible to terrorist attack.

The only discussion of port security during the board meeting involved the low bid submitted by Omaha-based Adesta LLC. Two other companies bid just under $10 million, and a third submitted a bid of $16.2 million for the cameras and improved barriers at port gates.

Treasurer Nancy Kopp asked James Ports, deputy transportation secretary, if he was confident that Adesta could do the job and do it well for $5.5 million. "Yes," Ports responded.

He said Adesta got the second highest technical score, but won the contract because its bid was only about one-third of the top ranked bidder. "We weren't looking for the cheapest," Ports said.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich also pressed Ports for assurances that Adesta could provide a good security system, saying the big difference in the bids raises "a potential concern about the quality of what we are buying here."

Port said Adesta, which he called a "hungry company," originally bid $7.7 million, but reduced the bid when the department went back to bidders seeking a better price.

Adesta will install cameras that will allow security officials to use television to monitor fences, gates, piers and terminal buildings.

Helen Bentley, a former Republican congresswoman and a longtime advocate for the port, said the increased security is "needed in this era of terrorism. This is all part of the 9/11 stuff."