Belleville, Ill., to See Added City Hall Security

The city's Finance Committee voted unanimously Monday to recommend that the city install three security cameras in City Hall and put up a "safety glass" wall across the second-floor hallway leading to the administrative offices.

The proposal is part of an estimated $490,000 plan to improve City Hall.

Mayor Mark Eckert, who presented the proposal to the committee, said unnerving incidents with intoxicated or otherwise "agitated" visitors in the hall outside his office precipitated the move.

"I do think for security in this 21st century we live in we need a little bit of a buffer for the employees up here," he said. "I need to make sure the employees are well cared for."

The wall will cost about $8,600, Eckert said.

The three security cameras will monitor the lobby, stairway and front counter where people pay their sewer bills. Eckert said the area requires video surveillance because city employees are handling money.

"Just in case we have an incident we have some documentation to show what happened," he said.

In conjunction with the new security measures inside City Hall, the committee also voted to recommend that the city pave the police parking lot adjacent to the building, put in a new entrance to the police station from the lot and remodel the garage on South Illinois Street so that some police offices and the department's weight room can relocate there.

When complete, the lot will have 11 parking spaces and five security cameras.

Eckert said all the tab for all the projects will come to about $490,000. The funds will come from a $5.3 million bank loan the city has secured to pay for improvements to Illinois 15.

The money, Eckert said, will buy "a little extra peace of mind here at City Hall."

Currently, visitors to City Hall can climb the stairs and walk all the way to the end of the hall to the mayor's office. Eckert said in addition to the safety concerns, this arrangement has been a problem in the past because people have walked in unannounced to his office, often when he already has someone with him.

The double-thick glass wall and door will be built across the end of the hallway that also contains the offices of the city finance director and economic development and planning director. The door to the human resources director's office will be repositioned so it opens onto that hallway as well. The area at the top of the stairs will function as a waiting room, Eckert said.

Employees will gain access to the offices by punching in an access code. Visitors will use an intercom to ring the office they want to visit and will wait to be buzzed in. A camera will allow employees to see who is at the door.

The door will be left unlocked on days when public meetings are scheduled for the conference room across from his office, Eckert said.

In March, St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern installed a security door outside the County Board offices in the St. Clair County Building. Eckert said he began researching security options for City Hall prior to that and never discussed his intentions with the former mayor.