The debate surrounding additional security at an Oklahoma County-owned building increased this week, as tenants delivered a letter of disapproval on a plan proposed earlier.
One county commissioner said the “process stunk.”
One tenant thinks the idea is “hot air” and another calls it a “waste of time.”
But the county commissioner who proposed the idea of having Sheriff’s deputies guarding the first floor continues to raise the issue of “gun violence.”
An item was brought for consideration before the Public Buildings Authority on August 21. The three Oklahoma County Commissioners who comprise that trust discussed the possibility of building a security kiosk in the lobby of the county-owned Investors Capitol Building (ICB) at 217 N. Harvey.
The recommendations of Captain David Baisden of the Sheriff’s department included a suggested $180,000 annually for staffing the kiosk with Sheriff’s Deputies.
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District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey balked at the cost of the build-out and the salary suggestions. District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan expressed concern and frustration that some tenants might be displaced by the project and yet they had not been informed.
District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert made the case for additional security to protect the county’s employees and tenants and proceeded to move the item, but the motion died for want of a second.
Letter of disapproval
At the regular meeting of the Public Buildings Advisory Committee on Tuesday, September 3, members learned that some tenants in the Investors Capitol Building (ICB) had signed a letter stating their resistance to the idea of building out a security kiosk to be staffed by Sheriff’s deputies.
The letter, acquired by Free Press, listed reasons that the tenants did not want the added security measures including the potential hindrance to their clients and customers. The letter said that it was unfair that temporary government tenants could displace long-time permanent commercial tenants. The fifteen signatories included employees from law firms, bail bonds services, and the Courthouse Wedding Chapel.
During the Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday, one tenant was in attendance to address the committee.
Attorney Jerry Jones was recognized and said that when the doors of the building unlock at 7, the “riff-raff comes in and turns the first-floor bathrooms into showers.” He added that in his opinion extra security isn’t needed, calling it “hot air.”
Committee Chair, District 1 Deputy Joe Blough, asked if Jones’s contention was that people experiencing homelessness were the issue and not people who might have weapons.
“Most of the renters there carry guns. It’s Oklahoma,” Jones replied. “As far as security over there, I don’t think you need to worry about.”
Blough said it’s incumbent upon them to make the county employees safe.
Jones argued that the largest problems with security in the building could be solved by locking the public restrooms on the first floor. “I think it’s a waste of money.”
“Never feels threatened”
Free Press spoke with a tenant of the ICB and co-signatory of the above-mentioned letter, Attorney Aaron Glover.
Glover said that he has been a tenant in the building for eight or nine years and has never considered it an unsafe place to work. “My receptionist is here by herself a lot and never feels threatened.”
He said that while he can’t speak for anyone but himself, he hasn’t heard from fellow tenants that they feel unsafe.
“There are Sheriff’s Deputies mere feet away [at the courthouse annex] who could respond immediately if there were a problem,” Glover said.
Lack of information
His greatest frustration was the lack of information about what is happening with the suggested project.
Glover said that on August 20, he arrived at work and found a letter placed in his business mailbox dated August 19. That letter explained that his lease was moving to a month-to-month lease while it was determined if a project to update the lobby would be undertaken. The item referenced came before the PBA on August 21.
“I’ve reached out to let my opinion be known. Frankly, if I weren’t keeping myself informed I don’t think I would be informed.”
One source said that the State Auditor has an office in the building and that they are in favor of the additional security. As of press time, a request for comment from the office had not been answered.
Transparency, process questions
In a conversation with Free Press, Commissioner Brian Maughan explained that his great frustration with this proposed project is with the process so far.
“It would be professional and courteous to speak to the tenants first.”
Maughan explained that tenants on the first floor pay a premium in rent for the convenience and accessibility that the first floor provides, and that for Mr. Jones in particular accessibility is crucial.
“To me, the issue of security is almost immaterial,” said Maughan. “I really consider some of this to be unprofessional. I’m for transparency and this hasn’t been transparent. I thought the process stunk.”
Safety of county employees
We asked Commissioner Blumert for comment.
“My concern is still the safety of county employees and paying tenants as it relates to gun violence or any other type of violence,” Blummert told us.
“This has nothing to do with people experiencing homelessness, that’s not a security issue. My concern is keeping my employees safe from any potential violence.”