Town to spend $100,000 on security
HALFMOON, N.Y. >> Last week’s Town Board approval to spend nearly $100,000 on security upgrades at town facilities is not being done in a vacuum. While not wanting to spend quite so much, other municipalities nearby have also come to the same conclusion; security at town facilities is part of today’s world.
The Halfmoon Town Board unanimously approved the appropriation after having held two active shooter drills in Town Hall in recent months and an overall review of security from Saratoga County Sheriff’s Deputy Ken Cooper.
“We’re looking at getting cameras, alarms, updated key fobs, door controls, door handles, replacements for some doors, and slide locks for the doors,” Halfmoon Supervisor Kevin Tollisen said. “We’ve got six buildings to think about; Town Hall, the justice building, senior center, water department, the Parks and Recreation office [building] and the Highway Department building. There’s a lot to do.”
Cooper said after holding the active shooter drills in Town Hall he held a training session for the town’s employees. Afterward, he did a safety inspection of the building.
“The camera system appeared adequate, but you have to give these people someplace to go in case the building has to be locked down,” he said referring to Halfmoon Town Hall. “They added some new locks, some fobs and got it so it can be locked down in case there’s an active shooter outside. The plan is to limit access to the building by having just one entrance to the building; which is a big deal for them.”
Cooper said not only is the secondary access to Town Hall now fobbed, but a visitor can no longer get into the individual department offices without knocking on the doors and being recognized. They are all fobbed.
“Someone will now manually have to get up and let you in those offices,” he said. “It was simply way too easy [to get in].”
Cooper said he has gone to a few other municipalities and was scheduled to go to the Town of Ballston’s Town Hall this past week. Two of those other municipalities are the Town of Malta and the Town of Clifton Park.
“A lot of these municipalities are doing the right thing to make sure their employees are safe,” Cooper said. “Halfmoon has six buildings which are more than the others, but they are moving forward.”
Cooper said most of the other towns have been good about taking his advice, though, he doubted the others were willing to spend the amount Halfmoon is about to spend.
“It doesn’t always have to cost you money to make a building safer,” he said. “Sometimes it’s as simple as taking locks off some doors where there is no need and putting them on doors where there is. That won’t cost you money.”
Town of Malta Supervisor Darren O’Connor said Cooper came to that town for a drill and a training session about three months ago. While there Cooper
looked at the Town Complex and the Malta Community Center.
“We didn’t spend an exorbitant amount; it’s a gradual thing,” O’Connor said. “We did some things to control access like putting in half doors to maintain a space between the public and the private areas. We’re picking away at his recommendations.”
O’Connor said he wants to see the staff better protected in the buildings but he also wants to have them open and inviting to the public while not being overly protective.
“We might make some budget transfers, but there are no great amounts,” he said. “It’s money for things like a buzzer to unlock a door where the rest of the time the door remains locked.”
Town of Clifton Park Supervisor Philip Barrett feels much like O’Connor where public convenience has to be balanced with building security.
Barrett said the town’s lock fobs are computer active and allow the town to determine which doors unlock, and which don’t. The town has also installed lighting and access gates at the transfer station that can be operated with a cell phone. A camera system is the next logical step, he said.
“There’s some things as a municipality we should do, but we still want it to be inviting for the public,” Barrett said. “I struggle with it. I don’t want there to be cameras everywhere. I don’t want it to be too obtrusive; it’s a public building. But I agree, some are warranted. We’ll begin with Town Hall.”
Cooper said that his twoman team is averaging 12 to 15 active shooter exercises and training sessions per month. Not all are in schools and municipal buildings as they once were. He held an active shooter training session recently at the Saratoga-Schenectady Endoscopy Center in Burnt Hills and is planning to meet with the management of the new Hannaford store that just opened on Route 50 near the Village of Ballston Spa.
“We’re not just doing schools anymore,” Cooper said. “We’ve pretty much branched out to everything. I’ve got Wilton Mall on my to-do list.”