Indianapolis Star

City-County Building to Get Security uUpgrade

July 29, 2004
By Tom Spalding, Indianapolis Star

The City-County Building in Indianapolis will soon get about a $700,000 makeover to provide better security for the site where police and fire headquarters, courts and city and county government are based.

Most of the details surrounding the federally funded upgrades are not being disclosed, but officials did release some of the plans, which range from installing shatterproof glass to new gates at the ramps leading to an underground garage.

"I don't think we're that high on anybody's target list, but you can't take that chance," said Marion County Sheriff's Capt. M.L. Kouns, who is in charge of security for the building. "If you blow it off and something happens, you are negligent."

The $12 million in federal money given to Indianapolis this year for anti-terrorism efforts will cover the improvements, which should be under way by year's end.

The money, from grants available through the federal Department of Homeland Security, will also pay for such things as upgrading the Indianapolis Police and Marion County Sheriff's departments' bomb squads.

Marion County Emergency Management Director Stephen Robertson said the security upgrades to the 28-story City-County Building aren't just about guarding against foreign terrorists. A local person with a grudge against a judge or a police officer can be just as dangerous, he said.

"To me, it's intuitive that that building represents the seat of our government," Robertson said. "The vast majority of our government is housed in that building. So if that building goes away, we have a problem."

Thousands of citizens use the City-County Building each day, entering through metal detectors monitored by private security screeners and armed sheriff's personnel.

Angie Eward, 24, Indianapolis, conducts business twice a year in the building, which opened in 1962. Last week, she said she didn't mind a five-minute wait to pass through a metal detector. "It's worth it," she said of the security.

Indianapolis Police Department employee Carol Yates, a data entry specialist, has worked in the City-County Building for 30 years and is impressed by the steady improvements that have been made to safeguard it, particularly since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"Look at all the things that have happened in other countries," she said. "You never know. There are people that might be on a mission." Some of the security improvements to be added to the building include:

• The windows on the lower floors will be equipped with a film that makes the glass more resistant to breaking apart and becoming airborne in an explosion.

• The building's employees and frequent users -- such as attorneys -- will receive new identification cards that have to be read by an electronic scanner. Currently, those building users merely show a white plastic card that includes their photo.

• New doors will be installed at the entrance and exit ramps on Alabama and Delaware streets. The ramps lead to an underground parking garage for both employees and deliveries to the building. Officials also will build an exterior security booth to thwart any would-be attackers from the outside.

"I think that they are necessary, and I do think it's a big improvement over where we were pre-9/11," said Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson. "I think they're good, and I feel pretty good about them. I'm not saying they're perfect -- no system is perfect -- but I think they act as a significant deterrent to the kinds of things that we worry about."

Ron Reinking, general manager of the Indianapolis-Marion County Building Authority, said retrofitting the building would be different but not difficult.

"We're at 42 years, and I see this building with a very extended life," Reinking said.