Lawmakers plan security measures for Capitol

Thursday, February 14, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- State officials are moving ahead with plans for nearly $2.4 million in Capitol complex security measures even as some lawmakers wonder if they are all necessary.

Security at the Capitol and large state buildings was tightened after the Sept. 11 attacks and the U.S. military response in Afghanistan.

Capitol visitors, for example, pass through metal detectors, employees wear security badges and only certain building entrances are open.

Now, building managers want to take more permanent steps, such as installing turnstiles and security-badge scanners and adding more cameras at both the Capitol and nearby Truman State Office Building.

They also want to enclose the carriage tunnel under the Capitol's front steps to use as a security checkpoint; buy mailroom X-ray machines; and install environmental sensors in the two buildings' air ducts to detect biological or chemical attacks.

The plans were outlined Wednesday for the Joint Committee on Capital Improvements. The panel is a legislative oversight committee that can give guidance or effectively stop proposals by its disagreement, but its approval of projects is not needed.

Hesitant about heavily fortifying the Capitol, committee members said they wanted regular updates as administrators proceeded with the security plans.

Concerns raised

They also expressed concerns about making permanent security changes.

"With all this work and all this money, what are we really doing? Just giving people a sense of security?" Rep. Tim Green, D-St. Louis, asked rhetorically. "If somebody really wants to do something ... we can't stop them."

One measure noticeably absent from the list was closing the Capitol basement parking garage, which is used by Gov. Bob Holden, some senators and select others.

Leaving the basement open to vehicles poses a security risk, but closing it is politically unpopular, acknowledged Randy Allen, director of Design and Construction in the Office of Administration.

Guards now allow vehicles to enter the basement after identifying the occupants, but do not inspect the vehicles.

That's a double standard that doesn't make sense, considering that car bombs are a much bigger threat than knives or guns, said Sen. Larry Rohrbach, who does not park in the garage.

"You would spend all this money ... to make school kids go through a metal detector, but wouldn't inspect a car that drives into the basement," said Rohrbach, R-California.

Under the plans, the $2.4 million for additional security measures would come from money already appropriated for maintenance, repairs and improvements in the Capitol complex.

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