by Mike Sharkey
Visitors to City Hall after the first of the year will find getting in to the public building will take a little more than showing a valid form of identification. Like at many other public buildings and airports, City Hall visitors will have to pass through a metal detector and have their bags checked by an X-ray machine.
Mayor John Peyton informed City workers of the plan Tuesday via e-mail. His spokesperson, Misty Skipper, said the measures are being implemented after a review by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office of the current security measures.
“There was no specific incident,” said Skipper. “There were a couple of incidents where people had some things stolen. This was previously discussed, but there was not a specific incident that caused this.”
Skipper said the work to install the new system will begin Dec. 15 with the system operational some time during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. She said that time frame is traditionally slow. There are no City Council meetings or Council committee meetings scheduled and foot traffic at City Hall also slows down.
She said the new system will cost $180,000. Of that, $80,000 is coming from an Urban Area Security Initiative grant, which is a division of Homeland Security. The other $100,000 is coming from the City coffers.
“A small portion of it is coming from the current fiscal year,” said Skipper, adding that City employees will perform the work and First Coast Security — which has the security contract on City Hall — will continue to oversee the security operations of the building. “We will work with them to determine what staff is needed and what training they will need.”
In addition to implementing high-tech security, Skipper said the public entrances to City Hall on Laura and Hogan streets will be closed. Only the Duval Street entrance will remain open to the public. City employees with valid City IDs will not have to pass through the new security initially, but may eventually have to pass through a turnstile that will only function when a valid ID is presented.
In his e-mail, Peyton talked about his desire to protect the community and the people that work for the City.
“Working to ensure the safety and security of the community is a responsibility I take seriously,” said Peyton. “As part of that responsibility, it is important to take steps to ensure that the employees of this government are safe while working to serve the public.”
According to Peyton, Public Works and the Information Technology Division have already replaced the security badge system in several City Hall locations. Last week, City workers changed the security system in the mayor’s office, Human Resources and the Council offices.
“This process will allow for the consolidation of badges, i.e. those of you working in the Ed Ball building who have separate badges for your offices and City Hall will only need your employee ID badge,” Peyton told City employees.