Officials announce plans to increase City Hall security

Movement in City Hall may get a bit more restricted as city officials announced Monday they are preparing to heighten security in the building by the end of the year.

Plans are in the works and in the design and cost analysis stage to hire a security officer and redesign the foyer with security walls, said Adam Winder, general manager of city streets and parks department.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana declined to speak about the heightened security, referring contact about it to Winder and William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director and general manager of River Valley Transit.

The proposed security officer will be stationed at a desk inside the first floor foyer, Winder said.

Preliminary plans are with Gannett Fleming, the engineer and architect on the project, he said.

Interior walls will be built to stop access into the building unless the visitor signs his or her name and speaks to the security person, Winder said.

“Visitors will need to sign a sheet and be given directions to whatever office they need by the security officer,” he said.

Access to the building will be allowed during regular business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or in that range), Winder said.

The open doors will remain on the West Fourth Street side and the west side entrance, but the lower basement where the codes office is located are under discussion to be closed to the public, Winder said.

Codes offices are accessible by elevator, one that is going to be repaired, he said.

Several City Hall workers were aware of a handicapped accessible ramp planned, but not the heightened security measures.

One of those public officials, Nicholas Grimes, treasurer and tax collector, said the tax office is one that serves the public.

“We need to be open and easily accessible,” he said.

Literally hundreds of taxpayers visit the treasurer and tax collection office throughout the year, he said.

“I want to make sure it’s easier (and) not more difficult for them,” Grimes said. “It is our job as public officials to be accessible. I understand the police department security, and how it is in the nation today, but for other public officials, I am not sure that is the way to go.”

“I look forward to speaking with the mayor and council about this,” he said. “But don’t want to make it harder to access our office on our taxpayers.”

The cost for the security plan at City Hall is covered by the $450,000 line of credit, Nichols said.

Of that amount, the plan is to build a handicapped-accessible ramp outside the front of the building and to repair the aged elevator, he said.

All doors of City Hall are locked after 5 p.m. and on weekends. During these times, access is available by contacting the city police officer on duty by ringing the rear door bell.