PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence City Hall is one step closer to getting metal detectors.
The City Council Special Committee on Public Safety voted 4-1 Wednesday to move forward with a comprehensive security plan for City Hall that includes metal detectors, improved cameras and a card system that would allow employees to enter the building.
Only Councilwoman Rachel Miller, D-Ward 13, voted against the plan.
The proposal must go before the Board of Contract and Supply. The city has earmarked $250,000 from an upcoming $10-million bond for securing City Hall, but the proposed upgrades are projected to cost around $120,000.
The proposal under consideration would include locking the entrances to City Hall on Washington and Fulton Streets for non-city employees and having a single entrance for the public on Eddy Street at the rear of the building. The other two entrances would potentially be opened up and staffed with metal detectors when a lot of members of the public are expected for a meeting or event.
City Hall employees have long advocated for safety improvements to the Dorrance Street building, in part because the building does not have the same secure entrances the State House or the courthouses have.
“They’re all locked down, they’re all safe,” lamented Councilman Michael Correia, D-Ward 6. “But here at City Hall, where myself, my colleagues and everybody that comes in and out of here, there’s a very bad potential for something to happen, especially in today’s environment.”
Miller said she supports many of the proposed security upgrades including limiting public access to one entrance, which could be more easily monitored by the Providence police officer who works at City Hall. But she said she doesn’t agree with installing metal detectors.
“It’s just the point of public access, the ability for people to feel that this is their building,” Miller said. “It’s a beautiful building, it’s operated for many many years in a secure manner.”
Last week, City Hall was evacuated after a suspicious backpack was found in the building. Police later determined the backpack was not dangerous.
The entrance the mayor’s office was recently outfitted with locks that prevent individuals from entering without typing in a code, but Correia has said it is unfair to have only one section of the building secured.
Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare took no stance on the metal detector issue Wednesday night, telling Eyewitness News it depends on the rest of the proposal.
“It’s not a simple yes or no,” Pare said. “Metal detectors are only as good as your overall security plan.” He said he wants to know if the city plans on having police officers staff the machines at entrances, or if they would hire private security officers.
“I don’t know that’s the best way to use a police officer,” Pare said.
There is currently one full-time police officer assigned to City Hall.