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Visitors to University Place speak with a security provider via a remote communication system. The provider opens the gate to visitors accordingly.
East County Wednesday, Mar. 15, 2017 5 years ago

Late to the party

Some University Place residents say their entry gate system isn't working.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Meredith Barcomb doesn’t have trouble getting through her neighborhood’s entrance, but her friends do.

She and other residents of University Place hope the University Place Community Development District will consider alternatives to its existing gate-entry vendor and system when the contract comes up for renewal in May.

Barcomb said her babysitter, who comes twice a week or so, has waited in line for more than 15 minutes, at times, just to gain entry, and that’s just one example.

“It’s hit or miss,” Barcomb said of gate services.

At University Place CDD meetings, supervisors have said they believe the current gate-entry system is working well, but admit some residents are lobbying for change.

“The bone of contention circles around visitors,” said CDD Vice Chairman Frank Ingrassia.

The CDD has budgeted $70,600 annually on security services, according to budget documents, for its contract with remote-access security company Envera Systems. Visitors push a call button and wait for an Envera employee to respond through an intercom system. The visitor provides his name and the address to which he is going before permitted entry through a gate.

The primary issue has been what happens when guests don’t have the required information. Some residents say their guests are directed to go back through the line and await confirmation as Envera tries to verify their destination, for example. The scenario creates delays.

The contract with Envera expires in May. The board, at the urging of residents, is asking staff members to present alternatives and costs for consideration. Options could include continuing with Envera, finding an alternative remote-access security company, using a 24/7 gate attendant or finding some combination.

A resident-conducted survey on the online NextDoor forum asked the question: “Would you like the CDD to present you with at least three gate security options and their benefits/costs before April-May 2017? Fifty-six of 399 registered University Place residents responded, with 93% in favor of seeing options.

Resident Bill Longo said he is in favor of options. He misses the personal aspect gate attendants provided, like when he moved into University Place in 2004.

“There’s so much inconsistency with it with the protocols for each one,” he said. “It’s not working. It’s a waste of money.”

CDD Chairman Rick Romanoff said the district doesn’t monitor NextDoor or put much value on such a survey, but it will consider options. He said the district nearly halved its security budget by changing from a gate attendant to the remote system more than five years ago.

Additionally, district staff members have verified average wait times for visitors is 2 minutes, despite complaints stating otherwise. He also said Envera provides a license-plate recognition software, so visitors who have been through the gate once before should be automatically allowed entry at future visits.

“We have the right to control access,” he said.

Still, some residents, such as Barcomb, disagree the system is working the way it should. Their guests frequently have trouble getting through the gates and are apologetic when they arrive late to birthday parties, dinners or other events.

CDD staff members are expected to bring back options, with cost estimates at the meeting slated for April 26.

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