For East Lansing citizens, a simple visit to City Hall may soon include metal detectors and security guards.
After years of ongoing concern, council members will discuss a proposal to implement new security procedures in City Hall during the April 14 work session.
“One of the big points is that City Hall shares a building with our 54B District Court,” said City Manager George Lahanas. “Being that we are in the same building, I think the security needs have to be looked at in a larger context.”
While most court systems have secure access points, Lahanas said the building’s design and a lack of funds have prevented City Hall from applying such practices.
“This building was not made with security in mind,” he said. “It was built in the 1950s and it has four entrances and exits at each corner. It’s not the way you would do a secured building these days.”
The proposal calls for a single entry point for citizens located at the southwest corner of the building.
This entrance would be reconfigured to include a metal detector and a 4-foot partition extending from the door to the security check, allowing individuals to enter and exit the building through the same door. The new changes would also include one or two stationary guards to monitor the detectors and inspect bags.
“Courts have lots of regular, honest citizens that go to pay speeding tickets and those sorts of things, but there could also be people who are serious criminals,” he said.
The chief of police, Juli Liebler, said screening individuals at monitored entrances is important.
“Our prosecutor and city attorney have to deal with individuals who have committed crimes and they (the city officials) have expressed concern with these people, who may get angry with them,” she said.
Although the changes will create a safer environment for city officials and citizens, Liebler said these new security practices could confuse residents.
“There will probably be some growing pains,” she said. “It will be different and less convenient, but I think once people get used to it, it will be OK.”
If council members decide to move forward with the changes, Liebler said there are plans to modify parking.
According to City Clerk Marie Wicks, this single entrance would put the clerk window at the back of the building. With this new layout, she is concerned that absentee voters, who tend to be senior citizens, will have to walk farther to either pick up or drop off a ballot.
To address this potential problem, a ballot receptacle will be installed in the parking lot to minimize the inconvenience for voters. Despite these initial concerns, Wicks said she would feel more comfortable knowing that these security measures are in place, especially working as an employee on the first floor.
“It’s a preemptive, smart and safe approach for everyone,” she said.