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Council approves the pursuit of City Hall security measures

November 03, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

When a homeless man entered City Hall, went up to the mayor's administrative suite and tried to broker a deal over some "diamonds" he found, officials knew something had to change.

It turned out the sparkling crystals were just broken glass, and officials have since had several chuckles over the summer incident, and others, City Police Chief Arthur Smith said Tuesday during a City Council work session.

A security guard and possibly some video cameras would add a needed level of safety to the city's main administrative building, Smith said.

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The City Council on Tuesday gave the go-ahead to pursue the security measures, which include using some leftover cash to pay for two to four part-time guards who would staff a desk in the building.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said the measures could be in place as soon as Dec. 1.

Officials noted several problems in City Hall that could be addressed by new security measures.

The main floor houses the city cashiers, where people pay parking tickets, water and electric bills and other city fees. There is no security staff watching those operations.

Smith said that inside the building there are "a lot of things that could make people somewhat irate," such as the frustration with utility payment, permitting and inspection offices. A security guard could act as a calming buffer for angry customers.

The building has several entrances, one of which officials said is a place where homeless people have slept in the past. Councilwoman Carol N. Moller suggested that spot as a good one to place a security camera.

Smith suggested that a guarded desk be placed on the first floor. Under Smith's plan, visitors to the building would sign in and out at the security desk.

The guard also would be responsible for giving people directions to their destinations and would serve as a first point-of-contact for the public - or, in the case of the diamond-brokering visitor, shielding staff from unwanted visitors, Smith said.

The guard would have a police radio, but it has not been determined whether the guard would carry a firearm, Smith said after the meeting.

According to information Zimmerman submitted, there is an estimated $6,975 in expected costs to purchase and install items such as a buzzer notification system for visitors and new phone lines.

Officials expect the cost of paying for three guards to be about $17,600 between Dec. 1 and June 30. Smith suggested the guard be a retired city police officer for two reasons: They know the city, and their benefits are already paid for.

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