The front of Scottsdale City Hall has resembled an airport security checkpoint for the past nine months. A large metal detector and X-ray machine stand inside the front doors.
Private security guards wait on the other side, checking the contents of people’s bags and purses for weapons, ready to run a metaldetecting wand over the bodies of those who set off the machine’s alarm.
The equipment was installed after the February 2004 mail bomb attack on Don Logan, Scottsdale’s diversity director, in the human resources department’s office.
But a majority of City Council members said they now believe the security measures were too extreme and might be discouraging people from going to City Hall.
“I don’t think having the airport-style metal detector as the welcoming committee for City Hall is going to prevent the type of letter bomb that we have had in the past,” Coun- cilwoman Betty Drake said.
Roughly $1 million was approved to improve security at several city buildings after the explosion, which injured Logan’s hands and arms. Two other city employees — Renita Linyard, Logan’s secretary, and Jacque Bell, a human resources representative — also were injured in the blast.
Tougher security measures were considered after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But less than two months after the attack on Logan, the council approved the current security setup.
“It was sort of hastily put together,” said Councilmanelect Tony Nelssen, a longtime City Hall observer who takes office next week.
A private security firm was hired to patrol the area surrounding City Hall and man posts throughout government buildings. Once past the metal detectors, City Hall visitors must register and be escorted if they want to go beyond the front desk.
Only those going to City Clerk Carolyn Jagger’s office can proceed without escort.
The security measures have upset some council members, who contend the upgrade went too far.
“What we have now is not appropriate for the city of Scottsdale, certainly not for the Kiva,” Nelssen said. The Kiva is City Hall’s main room, where most public meetings are held.
Earlier this month, the council’s budget committee proposed removing the security equipment to save money — and to get rid of a system council members deemed a nuisance for residents.
Mayor Mary Manross has consistently defended the tightened security, arguing that Scottsdale was behind other Valley cities in protecting its employees. She could not be reached for comment.
Pat Dodds, a city spokesman, said the Scottsdale Police Department began evaluating the security system’s effectiveness after the budget committee’s proposal. That review is still under way.
Nelssen said many of the new measures should remain, such as restricting access to city employees inside.
None of the council members interviewed by the Tribune was certain that residents have been deterred from attending public meetings. Several meetings have attracted hundreds of people since the metal detector was installed in August.
But on principle, Drake said, the City Hall checkpoint deserves to be bounced.
“It sends the wrong message to the public,” she said. “We want to be inviting people in and making them feel welcome — not making them be strip-searched, practically, when they walk in the front door.”