A year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed thousands and spurred a pledge to improve security at Charleston's City Hall, little of the $100,000 set aside for the task has been spent.
City Council approved Mayor Jay Goldman's plan to spend the money on security last December, but so far, only a standing metal detector and two hand-held security wands have been bought. Those expenditures amount to about $8,000. Goldman said Wednesday that the money still exists. In typical cryptic fashion, he wouldn't outline how it would be spent. "The plans are sealed in a mayonnaise jar in City Manager Sherry Risk's office," he joked. He later acknowledged that the city is still shopping for an ID card system that would both provide admittance to the building and city parking garages.
Goldman indicated that an ID card system would eat up most of the money. The mayor indicated earlier this year that he would take a "wait and see" approach to implementing the changes, which also originally called for hiring retired police officers to patrol City Hall. Others question the need for heavy security when terrorists are much more likely to strike big city targets.
Councilwoman Mary Jane Lopez says she can't understand why the swipe cards haven't already been purchased. Lopez, a state employee, said the city could have easily used the ID card model already effectively used by the state. Lopez said she doesn't understand why emergency services director Mark Wolford isn't spearheading such planned security work. Wolford makes about $50,000 a year. The city traditionally had not employed a full-time emergency services director, leaving those duties to a firefighter. "We've hired someone at a good salary to do all this," she said. Lopez did mention one active security measure. On Tuesday, when television reports abounded of the nation's "code orange" alert, Lopez said the building was locked after a night meeting. She had to proceed to the third floor and leave by another route. "A couple of [city] employees didn't know what 'code orange' meant," Lopez said. To contact staff writer Greg Stone, use e-mail or call 348-5195.