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Metal detector installed outside Lexington Mayor Jim Gray's office

During a visit Tuesday to Lexington's Urban County Government Center, state Rep. Ryan Quarles of Georgetown set off several times the new metal detector outside the mayor's office. Quarles  removed his watch and then passed through successfully as security officer Robert Hatfield stood by.
During a visit Tuesday to Lexington's Urban County Government Center, state Rep. Ryan Quarles of Georgetown set off several times the new metal detector outside the mayor's office. Quarles removed his watch and then passed through successfully as security officer Robert Hatfield stood by.

Visitors to City Hall who want a word with Mayor Jim Gray will first have to open their bags or briefcases for inspection and walk through a metal detector.

The security measures were put into place Monday, but Bob Ramsey, commissioner of general services, said they had been planned before the Arizona shooting on Saturday that killed six and severely wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The metal detector, which the city bought in 2008, is being used because Gray moved the mayor's office from the 12th floor to the first floor ballroom, immediately off the front lobby.

With the mayor and his staff in full view through glass doors, "we knew we needed to do something to control access," Ramsey said.

Maintenance workers also were installing crash bars Tuesday on two sets of ballroom doors to prevent entrance from a hallway.

"The mayor still has an open-door policy," Ramsey said. "This in no way precludes citizens getting in to see the mayor."

But in today's political climate, he said, "things have changed."

"We needed to take additional steps to ensure the security of the mayor and his staff."

The metal detector, which is used only on those entering the mayor's office, supplements several long-standing security measures used for all visitors to the building.

Visitors must state the purpose of their visits to the guard on duty, have their driver's licenses scanned and be issued badges with the time, date and floor they are visiting.

A guard is on duty in the City Hall lobby 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Once the person who wants to see the mayor goes through the regular security screening, we have them walk through the metal detector" set up behind the guard station, security supervisor Dave Pugh said.

About 35 people, including several state lawmakers, passed through the new security Tuesday to attend a luncheon hosted by the mayor in the ballroom, said security guard Bob Halfhill.

The city bought two metal detectors about 18 months ago, paying $6,500 for the pair.

They were never installed because it would have taken additional staff to operate them in the location where they were going to be placed, Pugh said.

"They weren't used purely for budgetary reasons," he said.

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