Ocean City Today

Officials move forward with City Hall security measures

Plan includes barricading entrance at moment, other facilities could be improved
By Katie Tabeling | Mar 30, 2017
Courtesy of: Doug Miller Public Works employees installed three concrete planters in front of City Hall’s Baltimore Avenue entrance on Monday, ostensibly to stop cars from driving into the building.

(March 31, 2017) Those weren’t just new planters that were placed in front of City Hall this week, they’re blockades that have been situated to prevent anyone who might so desire from crashing into the reception area with a car or truck.

The planters are but one aspect of a heightened protection plan recommended to city officials earlier this year by the Department of Homeland Security.

“The thinking process behind the new security measures is that, unfortunately, things have changed,” City Manager Doug Miller said. “We’re seeing more lone-wolf attacks, not where a plane is hijacked or where people target officials at a federal level,” Miller said. “We can’t ignore the activity out there, and down the line we’re going to take other preventive steps.”

In January, Homeland Security met with the Police Commission in closed session to present the results of its study on the resort government’s facilities and what might be done to protect them. The report was presented to the full council shortly afterwards. At the time, councilmembers who serve on the Police Commission declined to comment on what new security measures the agency suggested.

There is $50,000 set aside in the current engineering budget for improvements this fiscal year. Another allocation is expected in the FY18 budget.

Aside from the concrete planters, the only other evidence of enhanced security is the removal of signs from parking spaces reserved for the mayor, council, city manager and city solicitor.

“So someone couldn’t put a car bomb there to target someone,” Miller said.

Upgrades to reception could be the next step, as there are roughly 450 people who walk in that area a day in the summertime. At the moment, the receptionist desk is directly next to the Baltimore Avenue.

“I see that the receptionist desk could come out so they’d be able to see who was coming in. We would have a button so they’d be able to lock the door remotely. We can also increase video surveillance,” Miller said.

Discussion on improving City Hall security began before Miller took over as manager. Still, he did spearhead similar changes in La Plata and Aberdeen, the last municipalities he served. La Plata’s town hall processed large amount of cash transactions for water and sewer bills, so town employees started buzzing people through the front lobby. In Aberdeen, Miller said that bullet-proof glass was installed, and staff had to escort citizens inside the City Hall.

“Those improvements went over very well, and the staff felt a lot safer,” he said.

Bullet proof glass is not included in the current plan for City Hall, and neither is an escort, since people often come to the City Clerk’s office to process their passports.

Miller said other possibilities discussed during Police Commission meetings were fortifying the Public Safety building and the Public Works water and waste water facilities on 65th Street. Miller said at when he served at La Plata during the 9/11 attack, the first thing town staff did was guard the water plant from bioterrorism.

“Someone could pollute our environment and cause a disruption,” Miller said. “The plan is still a work in process, and we’re weighing each facility and using triage to determine our next move.”

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