Anyone entering Colorado Springs City Hall for a council meeting or any other business now must pass through metal detectors at the south and west entrances.
Council members began discussing the security measures last summer, in part because people have entered offices unannounced, making some staff uncomfortable, city officials have said.
“There have been a few instances where members of the general public have walked into the building and into individual suites,” said Ryan Trujillo, the city’s sustainability manager.
No hostilities were reported, Trujillo noted, adding metal detectors are a precautionary measure to avoid problems.
“There’s a general concern of access to the building, where there really weren’t any security measures,” he said.
Councilman Don Knight disputes that the detectors are needed, saying security lapses had been addressed. Electronic locks were fitted to doors in the building and a glass door leading to council offices was replaced with a wood one, which some council members have said appears uninviting to members of the public.
“If (city staff) feel threatened in their workplace, then we need to do something for them and we have done that,” Knight said. “You can’t get into their offices without a key card.”
Installing metal detectors discourages people from participating in the public process, Knight said. And makes them feel unwelcome in what council members refer to as “the people’s house.”
Trujillo noted that the detectors bring Colorado Springs up to speed with how other municipalities operate their city halls.
“City Hall is the people’s house and, as facilities managers, it’s our responsibility to make sure the people in the people’s house are safe and secure,” Trujillo said. “We hope that people are not discouraged.”
Typically, guards posted at City Hall entrances will operate the metal detectors and visually inspect bags as people enter, Trujillo said. But when the council holds meetings, typically four times a month, an extra guard will be posted at each entrance to streamline the process.
Several days ago, Trujillo said about 30 city staff members lined up to pass through the metal detectors as a test run. The security check took about 5 minutes, he said.
But Knight said he tried to pass through, and it took him about 4 minutes alone.
“It’s like the airport. I had to empty out everything and I still activated it,” he said. “It’s going to be like going through TSA.”
Attendance at the council’s meetings can vary from less than 10 people to dozens of participants and spectators.
Trujillo said the extra guards are expected to cost the city about $10,000 annually and the metal detectors also cost $10,000.