Committee recommends more security for public buildings

Published 5:47 pm Monday, February 4, 2019

A large crowd gathered in the council chambers Monday afternoon as the Public Buildings Committee held a meeting to discuss a variety of issues plaguing the city’s public spaces.

Councilwoman Jannie Thomas chaired the meeting, with Councilwoman Angela Benjamin and Councilman Corey Bowie sitting in alongside Mayor Darrio Melton.

Thomas first brought up the issue of opening public buildings to people looking to rent the spaces, which Melton said has been impossible due to the layoffs and a shortage of manpower.

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Melton recommended that the council revisit the contract for public buildings, which requires that city personnel be on hand for any event, and change the contract to stipulate that personnel will open and close the buildings and leave the renters responsible for cleaning and caring for the spaces while in use.

“I don’t like turning down money,” Thomas said.

“I think the easy solution is for the council to revisit this contract,” Melton said.

Thomas also brought up the need for some of the buildings to be repaired after fires and vandalism.

According to Melton, $45,000 in insurance money has been secured for the Dallas Academy building and at least $13,000 has been secured for the Vaughan-Smitherman Building.

A big area of concern was the lack of security features on many of the city’s public buildings, despite roughly 75 cameras being purchased in 2010.

“All public buildings are supposed to be secured,” Benjamin said.

Concerns were voiced about theft at park facilities, which Melton said was likely done by former employees since the cameras were in place and the thieves worked in the cameras’ blind spots.

Thomas also mentioned her inability to enter a public building to institute an initiative for Ward 7, which Melton said was due to “undercover reasons” regarding the local police department.

Multiple times Thomas asked for reports on various aspects of public buildings, including insurance payments and documentation of repair work.

“I’d like to keep the public informed more,” Thomas said. “You have to get the city involved.”

Thomas also brought up the need for maintenance at multiple area cemeteries, which Melton again stated was not possible due to a lack of manpower.

Further, necessary streetlight repairs are being overlooked due to a lack of funds, according to Melton. Thomas claims the lack of streetlights has caused at least two accidents in her ward.

In the end, the committee resolved to bring the issue of cameras on public buildings, cages around their air conditioning units and a revamping of the public buildings contract before the council.