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Protection One closing

January 17, 2001

Protection One closing



By JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer


The company that bought Dynamark Security Center Inc.'s monitoring operation almost three years ago announced Wednesday it would close the Hagerstown center, laying off approximately 80 people.

Employees were told Monday about the closure, which is expected to occur by mid-March, said Robin Lampe, spokeswoman for Culver City, Calif.-based Protection One.

"While these kind of decisions aren't easy, sometimes in operating a successful business they're necessary," Lampe said.

The Hagerstown center will be closed to make operations more efficient, company officials said.

The transition should be seamless for customers as monitoring operations for the Hagerstown center's 70,000 security system accounts are switched to the center in Wichita, Kan., said Bob Rankin, regional vice president in charge of Hagerstown customer operations.

Protection One is offering employees at its 19833 Leitersburg Pike center severance packages that will include bonuses if they stay on until March 16, Rankin said.

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The company will help employees find new jobs in the community, Rankin said.

A few employees will be offered jobs with Protection One and others can apply for jobs within the company, but they may not wish to relocate, Lampe said.

The firm also is offering to help employees brush up on their resume writing and interviewing skills, Rankin said.

Dynamark Security Centers Inc. started in downtown Hagerstown 23 years ago. Its security monitoring operation, Dynawatch, was sold to Protection One in May 1998.

At that time, Protection One signed a 9-year lease for the Leitersburg Pike building just outside Hagerstown and indicated a commitment to keep the center open in Hagerstown, said Wayne E. Alter Jr., who had owned 89 percent of Dynamark before the sale to Protection One.

"I was shocked and surprised to hear the announcement that they were closing the Hagerstown center," Alter said Wednesday.

"When I sold (the monitoring operation) three years ago they committed to keep the facility and employees in Hagerstown," Alter said.

Keeping the workers here was a goal when Alter sold the business, he said.

Alter said he also was surprised about the closing because Protection One recently invested more than $750,000 in upgrades at the Leitersburg Pike center.

Rankin said the electrical, telephone and computer upgrades were a smart thing to do at the time in case the center stayed open.

"Unfortunately, sometimes you do make some decisions and they get changed," Rankin said.

Rankin said company officials still need to talk to Alter about the more than six years remaining on the lease.

Before the closure announcement, the Hagerstown center was slated for an upgrade to Protection One's new Monitoring Automation Systems, called MAS, Lampe said.

Protection One grew by taking on other companies, such as Dynamark. The different operating centers it added on had different operating systems, so Protection One has been moving to install MAS companywide to improve efficiency, she said.

Rankin said the Hagerstown center suffered from a "double-edged sword."

Because the Hagerstown workers did such a good job organizing their account base, it makes it easy to switch the accounts over to the Wichita customer center, he said.

Another factor in the decision to close the local operation was its size, Lampe said. It is one of the firm's smaller monitoring operations.

Company officials will continue to look for ways to make operations more efficient and may close other monitoring centers in the future, Lampe said. In addition to those in Hagerstown and Wichita, Protection One has 10 customer centers in the United States and Canada.

Lampe said customer service response will not be slowed by switching to Wichita since customer service for the monitoring system is provided via telephone.

Protection One has notified some of its larger customers about the Hagerstown closing, she said.

The Hagerstown center served commercial and residential customers throughout the United States and Bermuda, Rankin said. That includes customers in Hagerstown and Washington County.

Protection One has more than 2,800 employees and 77 branch offices in North America, according to the company.

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