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Council votes to boost security

November 24, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

New security measures for City Hall were passed by the Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday without a word of concern, which is how the mayor said he hopes the new program will be seen by the public.

Before Tuesday's voting session, Mayor William M. Breichner said some officials have been reluctant to impose security restrictions inside the city's main administrative building over the years and there have been technical problems, too.

With heightened security concerns nationwide, however, Breichner said the measures are necessary.

"I hate to see it, but I think it is something in this day and age that needs to be done. We have to be concerned about the safety of our employees that work in this building," Breichner said.

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The council voted 4-0 to approve the measure, which included spending an estimated $24,600 on personnel and equipment. Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh was not present.

At a meeting earlier this month, City Police Chief Arthur Smith outlined a plan for the security measures that included a guarded desk on the first floor, where visitors would sign in and out.

The guard also would be responsible for directing people to their destinations and would serve as a first point of contact for the public. The guard also would shield staff from unwanted or irate visitors.

At the meeting earlier this month, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said the security measures could be in place as early as Dec. 1.

It was estimated that the money approved Tuesday would be enough to carry the measures through June 30. The cash would pay for three part-time security guards who likely would be retired police officers. The money also would be used to buy equipment, such as a buzzer notification system, and new phone lines.

As far back as the 1940s, the city police department, the local judge and the city jail were on the fourth floor of the building, Breichner said.

With entrances on two of Hagerstown's busiest streets - Franklin and South Potomac streets - "It was a building that really wasn't intended to be closed" to the public, Breichner said.

He said that a security desk was tried during a previous administration, but didn't work out due to the building's layout.

This next attempt might be more permanent, Breichner said.

"Let's hope it works," Breichner said.

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