Albemarle Council approves safety, security improvements for City Hall

Published 9:29 am Thursday, January 26, 2023

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The Albemarle City Council Monday night approved bolstering City Hall with a variety of improvements to improve safety and security through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. While this portion totals around $2.6 million, the city has received more than $5.2 million through the ARPA.

With recommendations from the North Carolina League of Municipalities’ safety assessment, which the city’s risk and safety officer agrees with, physical barriers need to be constructed between employees and the public, City Manager Michael Ferris said.

These protective walls, along with transaction windows, would be erected within the Administration and Planning & Development Services departments. An additional transaction window would be constructed within Public Utilities to allow the doors to the employee suite to be closed. These upgrades would allow the departments to better control public access.

Cameras are also needed for areas where there is high public traffic and not as much employee presence, which includes the Niven Center, EE Waddell Community Center and the Albemarle Neighborhood Theater, officials said.

The estimated total cost of these projects is about $140,000, Ferris said.

Improving City Hall was one of the recommendations from the ARPA strategic workforce group, consisting of council members and city staff, which has been meeting to discuss potential uses of the money. Council previously approved $350,000 from ARPA money to help fund the downtown alleyway project.

Councilman Chris Bramlett had reservations about the City Hall upgrades, wondering, as someone who works in retail, why there should be the need to physically separate residents from city employees.

“I can’t figure out what’s different about government that we don’t want to face our clients,” Bramlett said.

Councilman Bill Aldridge said he understands that “the people’s building” should always be accessible to the public, “but I think there needs to be some sort of a barrier to keep people from walking in.”

Following a motion from Councilman Chris Whitley, the council voted 6-1 in favor of the security upgrades, with Bramlett opposing.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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