A motion to secure a county building where two of the county commissioners’ offices and the entire public defenders’ staff are located did not pass Wednesday at the Board of County Commissioners meeting.
Kevin Calvey and Brian Maughan let Carrie Blumert’s motion to install and staff a Sheriff’s office security checkpoint in the Robert S. Kerr street entrance die for lack of a second.
Blumert and Calvey both have offices on the 3rd floor of the building. Maughan has new offices on one of the former county jail floors of the courthouse building.
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The unsecured building without a checkpoint is the former Investors Capitol Building on the corner of Robert S. Kerr and Harvey. Functionally, it is the annex to the annex of the Oklahoma County Courthouse.
The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s office reported that there have been attacks on tenants in the building before.
County Director of Facilities Management Keith Monroe showed the Commissioners a floor plan of the first floor of the building and described the proposed location of a security checkpoint.
He said that Captain David Baisden of the Sheriff’s Office made the recommendation of the location.
The checkpoint would be at the Roberts S. Kerr entrance and would require the relocation or removal of four tenants that are currently on a month to month lease.
If the tenants are not relocated in the building the county would lose annual revenue in an amount over $31,000.
District 3 County Commissioner Kevin Calvey asked why the intention was to place a security checkpoint at the north entrance on Robert S. Kerr instead of the Harvey Avenue entrance, which is ostensibly the “main” entrance.
Monroe said that Captain Baisden, who was not present at the meeting, wanted the checkpoint to be near the elevators for ease of access.
The entrance at Roberts S. Kerr has a lift to allow mobility devices to bypass the stairs. The entrance on Harvey does not.
District 2 County Commissioner Brian Maughan asked if tenants would be displaced if the checkpoint was at the Harvey Avenue entrance and Monroe said yes.
Commissioner Calvey then said, “I, for one, I’m not even sure we need a Sheriff’s deal there at all, and if I have to vote on it today I’m voting no for that and other reasons.” He added that he thought there were some unanswered questions about the proposal.
Commissioner Maughan asked Monroe about proposed costs for the added security. Monroe reported that Captain Baisden had recommended three officers in rotation and estimated that cost at $180,000 a year.
District 1 County Commissioner Carrie Blumert, whose offices are in the building, said that the building needs to be secured.
Currently, a visitor to Blumert’s office must enter through security at the Courthouse Annex next door and take an elevator to the fourth floor. Then, they can enter the Investors Capital building where they must next take an elevator or stairs to the third floor and down a hallway to the offices.
Blumert stated that if people are going to come to their offices they need to pass through security.
Monroe added that in the past there have been attacks on personnel in the building.
Blumert suggested that if someone were to follow an employee into the building through an unsecured entrance they could then easily enter the Courthouse without ever having passed through security.
Joe Blough, Chief Deputy of District 1, came to the podium to point out that this was a unanimous recommendation of the Public Buildings Authority Advisory Committee, a panel made up of the Chief Deputies of each District.
He reassured commissioners that in their meetings removal of tenants had not been discussed but that rather relocation had been.
He stated that there is vacant office space adjacent to three of the four tenants in question and that there should not be revenue loss. He also said that securing the building could lead to higher revenue from rent.
Motion Not Seconded
Calvey said that rather than spend the taxpayers’ dollars on this, he would send an employee down the three floors to let visitors in.
Blumert pushed back, saying that those people would not have passed through security and that she wouldn’t consider that safe.
Calvey brushed off her remark and said, “Well, you can move it if you want to, but I’m voting no.”
Blumert moved for approval of the location. Calvey asked if there was a second and was met with silence. Blumert then asked if this item not passing would mean that there would not be security added to the building.
Maughan responded that Oklahoma City Hall is not secured and many other public buildings are not.
He said further that he wasn’t comfortable with moving any motion forward without personally speaking to the tenants who would be displaced in this scenario. He said he wants to know how their revenue will be impacted if they are relocated.
Calvey again asked if there was a second and when no answer came, declared that the item died for lack of a second.
Concerns about security in public spaces are nothing new, but those concerns have been increasing in recent years as the public has witnessed a sharp increase in white supremacist terrorism and mass shootings, including 12 people killed in a municipal center in Virginia Beach on May 31 of this year.
Those concerns are not being alleviated by the intended change in state law coming November 1, 2019. At that time residents will be able to carry any gun not banned by the federal government into most open public spaces without a permit or training.
After the meeting, Free Press spoke with Commissioner Blumert.
“It seems that my colleagues are prioritizing the revenues of a few business tenants over the safety of some of their own employees, fellow Commissioners, and public defenders,” Blumert said.
“I’m going to continue working toward getting a secure workplace. This will be on the agenda again, and whatever I need to do to make the other Commissioners feel comfortable, I’ll do. Any building with county employees needs to be secure.”
It is notable that Commissioner Maughan’s office is in the Courthouse Annex, and has security. Commissioners Calvey and Blumert both office on the third floor of the Investors Capital building.
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