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Shady Cove council members rethink security

SHADY COVE — The murder of five people at a recent city council meeting in Missouri has prompted council members here to consider improved security measures at their own meetings.

A man carrying two pistols entered the council meeting in Kirkwood, Mo., Feb. 7, killing two police officers, two council members and the public works director of the St. Louis suburb. Before police killed the assailant, he shot and wounded the mayor and a newspaper reporter.

"Some of the security measures that other cities have taken are extremely expensive and far beyond our budgetary means," said Mayor Ruth Keith, "but I do think we need to try to do something."

Councilwoman Alison Curtis agreed.

"It's not only us that we need to protect; it's our employees and the public who come here," she said. "It can happen when you least expect it. There's no 100 percent guarantee, but I do feel we need to be more conscientious than we have been."

Councilman Bill Kyle said the city didn't have enough police officers to check everyone for weapons.

"It's going to be difficult to stop anybody who wants to go on a rampage," he said. "How do you lock down city hall?"

Councilman Gary Hughes said he didn't feel threatened and didn't support any changes.

"I think having a police officer at our meetings, as we do now, is enough," he said. "People come in and out of city hall all the time and there's no safe way to lock it up."

City Administrator Elise Smurzynski said one of the biggest problems is trying to secure such a small city hall.

"I truly wish that our building looked more like a traditional city hall," she said. "Our space is so confined; we just don't have room for a segregated entrance area for security purposes."

Smurzynski said the city has architectural plans, drawn years ago, for expanding the current city hall, which was designed and built by city officials and local residents in 1977.

"We looked at it with a lot of high hopes," she said, "but at a quarter of a million dollars, we just didn't have the financial resources."

Public Works Director George Bostic suggested the city contact SOS Alarm, the company currently handling the city's security system.

"I'm sure they could give us some good ideas," he said. "They're the experts."

Smurzynski said the city is already in discussions with SOS, exploring the possibility of using video cameras to protect areas where financial transactions take place, and she agreed with Bostic, that the alarm company might be able to offer some financially feasible suggestions.

The council directed the city staff to continue their discussions and report back with any suggestions. Mayor Keith also asked the staff to draft a resolution of condolence and support for Kirkwood City Council.

Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.