The building where residents go to obtain building permits, pay water bills or sign up for Parks and Recreation Department classes is too open to the public with no way of monitoring who is in the building, Mayor Holly Brinda said.
“The biggest thing is access. We don’t have anything in place to track individuals in the building and where they are going,” she said. “This is not a new thing. In schools, there is a point where people have to check in before entering the building.”
City Council seems to be on board with the idea to beef up security at City Hall. Earlier this month, Council members voted 9 to 2 to allocate $60,000 of the $3.4 million windfall money toward security upgrades. Councilmen Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, and Mark Craig, I-4th Ward, were the only ones to vote against the expense.
Craig said he does not object to security upgrades but voted against the proposal as he questions the timing of the request.
“We suddenly come into a large sum of money and instead of going back to the list of capital expenditures our department heads asked for in the budgeting process that were turned down for lack of money, we created a new set of capital expenditures I wasn’t aware was needed,” he said. “I can understand the need, but if we are so concerned that we will be $11 million short over the next couple of years, I would think we would spend the money on something else.”
Brinda said the $60,000 Council allocated will not be enough to handle all the needs, so a priority list will have to be developed. She imagines the multiple entrances to the front and back of the building will be addressed. Some of the doors have to be locked by hand while others are automatic.
Public access to the building will not be lost in the process, Brinda said.
There are several tasks residents routinely do in the three-story building including applying for funds through one of the federal programs administered through the Community Development Department, paying city income tax or attending a meeting.
Safety is more of a concern in the evenings and colder months, Brinda said.
The public offices typically close before 5 p.m., but there is no way short of personally checking every office, bathroom and hallway to ensure everyone is out, Brinda said. When meetings occur after hours, the back door of the building is typically propped open with a wooden door stop, and the honor system is used to ensure people go where they are supposed to go, the mayor said.
“But that is not always the case,” Brinda said. “There have been times I have found individuals in the restrooms and stairwells because it’s warm.”
In the meantime, a few stopgap measures are being tested. Two Dutch doors have been placed at the entrance to both the Clerk of Council and Finance Director’s offices that stop people from just walking in. In addition, an auxiliary police officer is often called to monitor the building in the evening when public meetings take place.