Coral Gables to Invest in Security Upgrade at City Hall

Mar. 23--Panic buttons. Video cameras. Closed circuit TV. Electronic doors. Blue phones directly connected to emergency operators.

These are just some of the things Coral Gables Police intend to install in the coming months at City Hall and the Youth Center, according to a report of proposed citywide security measures presented to commissioners last week.

There also will be security enhancements at police headquarters, the city's Southwest 72nd Avenue property in unincorporated Miami-Dade and other city facilities -- for a grand total of almost $1.2 million -- the bulk of which will be used to secure the police headquarters buildings.

But the two buildings with the most public use, the ones commissioners asked about last month, will be taken care of first, Hammerschmidt said.

At City Hall -- where the switchboard desk may eventually be redesigned to serve as a reception area for incoming visitors -- other immediate measures include closed circuit TV cameras, more panic buttons and electronic-access doors for a total of $24,000.

Other measures -- such as the hardening of windows, protective screening and the upgrade of the alarm system -- come in phase two for a total in security enhancements at City Hall of $123,500.

At the Youth Center, immediate steps include more closed circuit TV cameras in the day care area, increased wrought iron fencing to close off most or all access from the street and the installation of blue phones at two locations.

"You just pick the phone up and it makes automatic contact with our communications center," Hammerschmidt said. "We will be adding enhanced electronic card control for certain rooms so that people can't just walk in without being buzzed through."

The first phase of the Youth Center measures will cost $64,000.

But, eventually, more security cameras and electronic-access doors, as well as an emergency generator and other measures, will cost about $252,000, Hammerschmidt's report says.

The money will come from the city's share of the Miami-Dade County general obligation bond passed by voters in November 2004.

As part of that $2.9 billion "Building Better Communities" bond program, the Gables is set to receive $8.36 million for various uses, including $1.2 million for "homeland security."

Phase Two also will include $397,00 in security improvements to the public safety building, 2801 Salzedo St., that serves as both the police and fire headquarters.

Protective lighting and hydraulic access-control barriers for the parking garage, card-access elevator controls, closed-circuit TV surveillance throughout the facility, and a specially designed mail room with secure screening and handling capabilities are among the items budgeted.

Improvements and enhancements at the 72nd Avenue property will cost $233,000 and include more closed circuit TV and a $150,000 emergency generator to support sustained, reliable operation of vital city services, including primary fuel stores.

Commissioner Wayne Withers thanked him and the city manager and the chief for acting on the matter so quickly after it was brought to them weeks ago by Commissioner Ralph Cabrera on the heels of a flurry of office thefts at City Hall.

"It's long overdue," Withers said.

Cabrera asked about the status of the investigation into the thefts and Hammerschmidt said police believe an employee is behind them.

"We think we identified the person, but unless we can get the person to admit to it, we're not going to be able to prove it," the chief said.

<<Miami Herald, The (KRT) -- 03/24/06>>