Walking is for punks. That’s why from now on Birmingham police will have T3 scooters. Because nothing exudes the aura of authority like riding on a motorized tricycle.
Tuesday the Birmingham City Council approved a $201,00 bid from T3 Motion Inc. to provide the police department with electric-powered “three wheel personal mobility vehicles.” (AKA: Scooters.) The proposal from T3 Motion was the only bid.
The T3 series has a top speed of 20 miles per hour and has a carrying capacity of 450 pounds. Birmingham police officials told the council that the vehicles would be used to patrol areas of high pedestrian traffic and to police events such as City Stages.
According to the company’s website, the City of Hoover already uses the T3 scooters.
The council approved the scooters without debate. However, the council was reluctant to support another public safety project — a contact for widespread video surveillance throughout the city.
The mayor’s office had proposed a five-year contract with Ion Interactive Video Technologies Inc., a newly formed company in Birmingham that would own and operate as many as 40 advanced security cameras throughout the city.
If anyone was concerned about privacy issues, it wasn’t the city council. Instead, the councilors focused on the racial make-up of Ion Interactive’s staff and the particulars of the contract.
Councilor Steven Hoyt said that his concerns about minority participation in the contract had not been addressed. Langford’s chief of staff, Deborah Vance, told the council that the company had agreed to almost 50 percent minority participation in its personnel and subcontracting.
Councilor Valerie Abbott initially refused to support the contract because of an expensive escape clause it contained for the city. Under the first draft, the council could have withdrawn from the agreement by paying Ion Interactive $1.4 million.
Mayor Langford, who had been absent during much of the meeting, appeared late to push the contract through a council vote. Langford ordered the $1.4 million cancellation fee redacted from the contract, which the council then approved.
According to the information provided to the council with the resolution, Ion Interactive is the only source of supply, exempting it from public bids. Previously, the mayor’s office had said that the contract was exempt from Alabama’s bid law as a professional service contract.
During the debate, the company’s founder, Ed Welden, told the council that his company uses technology not deployed in other cities and that his service was unique.
In fact, public surveillance cameras are nothing new to law enforcement in other cities, including Chicago, New York and Seattle. (We’d give more examples, but Google can do that more quickly with much less trouble. Regardless, saying that this was the only source of supply or unique to one company is a little short of the truth.)
Welden told the council that his company is eight months old and had done video surveillance work for offices and residential buildings. This would be Ion Interactive's first project for a municipality.
Officials at neither the Alabama Secretary of State’s office nor the Jefferson County Probate office could find incorporation records for Ion Interactive Video Technologies Inc. When asked about this after the council vote, Welden said he would fax the documents showing that his company was incorporated to the Weekly.
Funding for both projects will come from the 1 percent increase in city sales taxes passed by the council last year.
UPDATE: Wednesday morning Welden emailed the probate book and page numbers of ION Interactive's incorporation records. According to the email, ION Interactive was incorporated in May 2007.