Scottsdale City Hall visitors can say farewell to the beeping metal detectors and electronic wands that have greeted them for the past 14 months.
The City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to remove the airport-style metal detector and X-ray machine and instead employ three armed guards to patrol in and around the building.
“I think there’s a little paranoid thing and it sends a message that our city is not a friendly one,” Councilwoman Betty Drake said.
Councilman Jim Lane called installing the equipment a bit of an overreaction.
The council voted in April 2004 to spend roughly $1 million for a security overhaul that included the screening equipment, which started operating in August 2005. That vote occurred just two months after three Scottsdale employees, including director of diversity and dialogue Don Logan, were injured by a mail bomb.
“It’s a serious obstruction to the process and a level of inconvenience,” Lane said.
The screening equipment is scheduled to be removed at the beginning of next year.
Mayor Mary Manross and Councilman Wayne Ecton opposed removing the equipment. Manross proposed as an alternative to the screening that the officers search each bag or briefcase by hand, but again only she and Ecton supported the idea.
“We have lots of emotional meetings with volatile issues and I’m concerned anyone can walk in with any type of weapon and have it concealed,” Manross said.
Scottsdale Deputy Police Chief John Cocca said the plan is to hire three retired police officers as the armed guards, one of which would be a supervisor. The guards would be Scottsdale Police Department employees.
Today, the screening operators are contracted security guards. The armed guards will work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and will be available for after-hour meetings. Sworn police officers are expected to continue to patrol council meetings.
All visitors to City Hall, at 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., must still sign in and wear a badge, except to attend a public meeting or visit the City Clerk’s office. The city will also continue to screen the mail for explosives, a policy implemented after the mail bomb incident.
The vote will cost the city roughly $20,000 this fiscal year. The proposed total was originally $45,316, but Cocca said it was determined that the supervisor position would not need its own car.
In subsequent years, the move is projected to cost the city $164,942 for the three guards compared to $152,000 for contracted screeners. The screening equipment that cost the city $41,507 to obtain will be placed in storage.
Council members and city employees were never required to go through the screening equipment and can continue to enter through a private entrance.