Better security comes at a cost

Panel identifies areas where county can boost safety

WashCo_logoAlthough Washington County has well-developed security measures at the Government Center and Courthouse, a year-old security task force identified security-related issues at several county service centers and libraries the panel recommends addressing.

It was the cost of those recommendations that surprised at least one Washington County commissioner during a County Board workshop Tuesday.

The Security Task Force identified $74,000 in on-going costs and between $822,500 to more than $1.2 million in one time or periodic costs to implement its recommendations. However, Deputy County Administrator Kevin Corbid said the recommendations would be phased in over a four-year period.

County Administrator Molly O’Rourke said she had the security task force created to look at security at the county’s buildings in the wake of several recent incidents in other Minnesota counties.

“These incidents have created an undercurrent of concern among our employees,” she said.

“Our task force focused on keeping our employees and visitors safe,” Corbid said.
The task force included representatives from every county department. In meetings during the past year, Corbid said the group found the county’s security strengths were a state-of-the-art security at the courthouse, new key card access systems, restrictions on public movement within buildings and some department-level training.
But the task force found the county should enhance satellite facility security, develop protocols for preventing or responding to incidents, more training and develop clear responsibility for security management, Corbid said.

“There is no one department coordinating overall security,” added Jane Harper, a senior planner and task force member.

Sheriff Bill Hutton said deputies not only provide security and visitor screening in the courthouse, they also respond to security issues in the more open Government Center offices. Issues involving vehicle break-ins or lockouts in the center parking lot are handled by the Stillwater Police Department.

“Any criminal activity inside the campus itself, the sheriff’s office will deal with it,” he said. “Any incidents outside in the parking lot is the Stillwater Police Department. That’s an agreement we’ve had for years. We’re coming and going, so if there’s an event occurring (outside the buildings) we’re going to be there.”

“We’re really happy with the sheriff’s office. They’ve gone above and beyond. Statutorily, they’re not required to provide security at the Government Center,” O’Rourke added.

Corbid and Harper said the task force recommends the County Board consider a security coordinator to manage and coordinate all security functions. Other recommendations included improved lighting; improvements to the few county offices where visitors still pay cash for services or documents; a countywide training seminar in 2014 and then every five years; yearly training for new employees and customized training by department.

The task force also recommends county officials look at current policies for safeguarding technology resources, public use of buildings, responses to fires, severe weather and bomb threats.

One area Corbid said commissioners should consider is improving security in the work areas at some service centers and libraries.

“The entrances to the (library) work areas are unsecured. There’s no security there,” Corbid said. He added that there is more visitors than staff at county libraries.
The task force estimates putting locks on existing doors at the Stafford and Oakdale libraries would cost $75,000 to $125,000. Key card doors at the Park Grove and Wildwood libraries in Cottage Grove and Mahtomedi would cost $150,000 to $250,000. Key card access at other satellite facility except Forest Lake and Valley library in Lakeland would cost $300,000 to $500,000.

The task force also recommends video cameras at building entrances as both deterrents to crime and aids to identifying persons leaving buildings involved in incidents.
“The consultant . . . said the public is so used to cameras, it would be a deterrent,” Harper said.

Commissioner Gary Kriesel expressed some surprise at the cost of security retrofits at some satellite facilities.

“I got real sticker shock on key card access,” he said. “What is an abnormal risk? Is there money involved? Is one person working alone? To retrofit, that’s a healthy price tag.”

“There is a pretty high price tag. Much of those recommendations could be phased in over four years,” Harper said.