Elgin council may be going bulletproof
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org January 22, 2013 8:02PM
The Elgin city council is considering a $75,000 upgrade in security at city hall that would include a bulletproof dais and panic buttons for each council member seat to name a few. January 22, 2013 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 24, 2013 6:17AM
ELGIN — The city council is considering bulletproofing part of its chambers.
The council tonight is set to approve spending more than $374,000 on improvements and renovations to city hall, including almost $75,000 for security measures.
According to supporting material for the meeting, proposed security upgrades will be done to accommodate new members when the council expands to nine members.
The security and operational improvements would “protect and better serve the public,” according to staff.
“The council chambers and city hall need to provide a safer, better-controlled environment; the chambers need audio/visual improvements to enhance the experience for those in attendance (especially senior citizens) and to provide higher-quality broadcasts of the meeting,” the materials said. “Finally, additional renovations are needed for some of the office spaces to allow for the establishment of a call center to better serve the public.”
Incorporating recommendations from the police department, the work is to include a bulletproof dais; panic buttons for each council member seat; security walls; security cameras throughout the chambers, entry stairwells and the city hall lobby; decorative-style vehicle barricades outside city hall; and staffed metal detectors at the city hall entrance.
Assistant City Manager Rick Kozal said the dais would have Kevlar installed behind it so council members could duck under it in the event of trouble. The metal detector would be staffed during council meetings and court sessions, Kozal said. Management analyst Aaron Cosentino said a setup under consideration might have the new dais extended long enough to run from wall to wall.
There have been no incidents or threats of violence at any recent council meetings; but with the cases of mass shootings in other parts of the country over the past few years, security is on local officials’ minds.
The goal is to strike a balance between safety concerns and openness, Kozal said.
The phased project also is to include combining community development offices into one area in order to make room for a 311 center, through which the city will route and track resident calls for service, for questions to be answered, and for complaints to be resolved.
Down the road, staff will make recommendations to the council for audio/visual upgrades that would include headset technology available to the hearing-impaired, furniture and seating for the council chambers, the call center and other areas being remodeled.
The contract for the project is set to be awarded to Chicago-based F.H. Paschen.
Ideally, a portion of the work could be done by May and after the April council election in order to make room for new members. Because Elgin’s population has grown to about 110,000, the city is required by state law to expand from its current seven members (including the mayor) to nine.
“There’s not enough room to seat nine, so we have to expand anyway, which makes this a good time to consider making other improvements,” Mayor David Kaptain said. “The current setup is long in the tooth.”
Kaptain also would like the council to discuss how the city staffs meetings with police to keep an eye on the proceedings. While there always is at least one officer assigned to the meetings, according to the mayor, currently extra officers are temporarily taken off patrol duty for times when meetings might be crowded, leaving neighborhoods where they normally work potentially vulnerable.
“It may be better to pay overtime,” Kaptain said.
Council chambers also serve as a branch of Kane County’s court system. Kozal said there have not been any discussions with the court about the renovations or talks about approaching them to help pay for some of them.