Huntington WoodsFebruary 28, 2013
Woods to spend $65K for lobby security upgrades
By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer
HUNTINGTON WOODS — City officials are moving forward with a project to make the Huntington Woods Public Safety Department safer for employees and visitors.
The plan includes $65,000 worth of renovations to the building’s lobby area in order to increase its security against any potentially violent incidents. It was approved unanimously by the City Commission Feb. 19 and will utilize money from the city’s capital improvement fund to enter a design and construction agreement with the Royal Oak-based firm Interior Systems Contract Group (ISCG).
According to Public Safety Director Steve Fairman, the primary reason for the change — which will include the installation of bulletproof glass, metal doors and other divisional barriers — is the increase in shootings that have taken place in the lobbies of public safety departments across metro Detroit.
“We just felt like this was the right time to make some upgrades, in the interest of protecting our employees a little better,” he said. “Although we do have some angry people come into our building from time to time, we’ve never had an incident where our employees were in any physical danger. But these incidents that have happened in this area over the last year and a half have given us a big reason to push for this.”
Fairman cited four recent gun-related confrontations in public safety department lobbies: On July 23, 2011, a man entered a Detroit police precinct and opened fire on police officers at the front desk, resulting in a shootout that killed the gunman and seriously wounded four officers. Then, on November 11, 2012, a man opened fire in the lobby of the Southfield Police Department and was killed in the ensuing shootout with police. Earlier this year, on Jan. 12, a gunman fired two shots from outside into the occupied lobby of the Inkster Police Department; fortunately, all four visitors in the lobby were unharmed. Most recently, on Jan. 26, a woman entered the Oak Park public safety lobby, pulled out a handgun and committed suicide by shooting herself in the head.
As City Commissioner Bob Paul explained, “We certainly do consider ourselves fortunate that we haven’t had any incidents like that in Huntington Woods, but those local shootings were really the driving force for us to get this done now. I think it’s very important to make sure that our public safety building is secure, and we (the City Commission) showed that by moving forward with this project.”
Finance Director Tony Lehmann agreed. “Our major goal has always been to keep the public and our employees as safe as possible from any harm,” he said. “With the increase in the number of these insurrections into police station lobbies that we’ve been seeing lately, it was incumbent upon us to take action.”
Paul noted that these renovations have been in Huntington Woods’ capital improvement plan for “quite a while,” but that city officials had been unable to get around to them in years past. The security upgrades were finally included in the two-year budget that the City Commission adopted last year, but officials opted to move it up even sooner, in light of all the recent local shootings.
The plan will involve demolishing the existing lobby work station and installing a new dividing block wall between the entrance vestibule and the reception area, as well as two metal doors with bulletproof glass at the top and bulletproof glass with two sliding drawers at the reception desk. It also includes installing additional masonry walls, cabinets with steel backing and cosmetic improvements, such as new countertops, light fixtures, carpet and paint.
According to Lehmann, in addition to the obvious potential to save human lives, the safety enhancements will lower the city’s general liability insurance costs. Although the cost of the project is high, mostly due to the expense of ballistic screening equipment, he stressed that city administration was able to bring the initial proposal down by about $10,000 without compromising the overall integrity of the project.
“It’s remarkable how you can change a few of the material specifications or the dimensions and lower the cost significantly,” he said. “Our first priority here was to maintain the same amount of security in this plan, even if we were spending less money than where we started.”
Lehmann estimated that the construction work would begin in the next few weeks and be completed within two or three months. Fairman said that he still has to determine where the lobby secretary will be relocated during the renovations, but the inconvenience to his employees and the public should be minimal. At the very least, he believes that it will be much less of a hassle than when the Public Safety Department’s roof was replaced four years ago.
“We do still have some logistics to work out, but I think this should be a pretty quick and simple process,” he said. “We might be one of the last departments in this area to make these changes, and it had definitely become a concern for a lot of us here. I don’t care to speak as to why this wasn’t done earlier; I’m just glad that it’s being done now.”