O'Fallon Progress

Council chambers made more secure with “what if” in mind

Mayor Herb Roach addresses the O’Fallon City Council Chambers against a new backdrop that includes escape doors for added security.
Mayor Herb Roach addresses the O’Fallon City Council Chambers against a new backdrop that includes escape doors for added security. For the Progress

Designed with a “what if” active shooter scenario in mind, O’Fallon Mayor Herb Roach called the improved security measures in the O’Fallon City Council chambers as an “ounce of prevention.”

The public room in O’Fallon City Hall re-opened Aug. 6 for the first city council meeting since mid-April.

Roach explained that changes were made not only to make the space functional and flexible, but also non-invasive.

“It’s unfortunate that you have to think about taking these types of safety precautions, but it is better to be safe than sorry,” Roach said.

Gone are the church-like pews and replaced with chairs.

“We were told that the pews were shooting lanes, because people have a more difficult time getting out of the pews. So that is why we have the open chairs. They can also be thrown as a defense mechanism,” Roach said.

Two exit doors behind the dais were installed so that people have another way to escape other than the front, which would be the access point for the shooter.

“We only had one exit point, now we have these two doors in the back,” he said.

Other upgrades included audio/visual improvements.

The technology improvements replaced the old cameras, microphones and audio control hardware and software. This allows the meetings to be broadcast in higher quality. They are now again available through public access on the city’s official website, www.ofallon.org and AT&T/Charter cable channels (Charter Ch. 993 and AT&T U-Verse Ch. 99).

In welcoming the home audience, Roach said: “You should be able to hear better.”

When the 14 aldermen, mayor, city clerk and city attorney returned to the council chambers, they were all able to sit on the dais, along with space for City Administrator Walter Denton. The dais now has room for 18 to sit all in a row.

Previously, because O’Fallon’s seven wards are each represented by two aldermen, there had only been room for 10, so usually the newly elected ones sat below the council platforms at two tables. Aldermen Andrew Lopinot, Mark Morton, Ross Rosenberg and Dan Witt, elected in April 2017, now joined everyone else.

Work was done on the front lobby area as well. Two counters upstairs and downstairs need to be completed, Roach said, and they hope it is finished in the next few weeks. Film will be placed on the wall glass panel of the council chambers, too.

When work began in mid-April on the improvements, council meetings were moved to the Public Safety Building for three months, from May 7 to the Committee of the Whole July 30.

Roach said they were advised that these renovations were in the city’s best interest.

“I hope that we are never the beneficiary of these changes, but it is better to be prepared than to look back after the fact and say, ‘I wish we had taken the advice we were given, then maybe no one would have been hurt,” he said.

Millennium Construction was contracted for the demolition and construction, while Modern Communications installed the broadcast, presentation, audio/visual and broadcast scheduling equipment, and provided training.

The cost was $202,893.32. That includes $150,257 to Millennium Construction, $37,881 to Modern Communications Inc. and $14,755.32 to Egyptian Workspace Partners for furniture for chambers and front desk area. Bids were accepted at the April 2 meeting.

In other action, the council unanimously approved two ordinances regulating unmanned aircraft systems, which limits drone activity in the city.

The ordinance amended the city code and enacted a new part about invasion of privacy.

City officials agreed that drones posed a potential threat to people, property, privacy and general health and welfare of residents.

The council also amended their mutual aid agreement with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department to reflect the change.

At the Aug. 6 meeting, Ron Deedrich, representing a local Illinois realtors group, encouraged the council to delay the vote.