Following a security breach in the Oregon Municipal Complex last Friday, the public can only gain access to the building through the main front entrance, which is installed with scanners.
The public will not be able to use doors to the east of the building that are commonly used to pay utility bills, pull building permits, or enter the tax department.
Public Service Director Paul Roman, who is also acting city administrator, said an individual had violated a court order not to contact the tax department, which raised security concerns among employees.
Roman said he met with Oregon Municipal Judge Jeffery Keller, Police Chief Richard Stager, and Mayor Mike Seferian on the matter.
“People in the tax department felt threatened,” Roman said at a committee of the whole meeting last Monday.
Restricting the public’s access through the main doors, Roman added, has been difficult.
“Some people will be upset by it at first,” he said. I would hope that most residents would understand it.”
“Prior to this situation, we had issues where I would try to have a public bid opening in this room, when court was in session, and one thing we make very clear at bid openings is we have the doors open,” said Roman. “I’m trying to read bids, and I had a security guard who kept trying to close the door. We basically got into an argument. The judge said the door has to be closed, and I kept saying it has to be open, or maybe unlocked. I just don’t want anyone to perceive that it’s a closed bid opening. I brought that up with Judge Keller last Friday. We really can’t use this room when court is in session. However, if everyone went through that scanner, that door would be open. We would have more utilization of this room.”
Roman said employees in other departments have also expressed concerns about threatening situations.
Some members of the public, he said, have “gotten a little more testy in the past,” he said.
Most government buildings have similar security challenges, he said.
In One Government Center, the public signs in, states their business, and signs out, said Roman.
“It doesn’t mean this has to be permanent,” said Seferian. “But right now, it appears it could lead that way. We’ll try to entertain every thought to try and make it as smooth of a passage for people to get here.”
“I’m sure you’ll get calls. I can almost guarantee it,” said Roman. “But at the same time, you’re always going to have that with something new. It’s going to take a big longer if people aren’t aware of that yet. Eventually once they do, they’ll learn to accept it. After 911, you always had some security when you walked in, but I think people just downright expect it now.”
Seferian said he hopes it will only be a temporary situation.
“I tend not to be a very paranoid person. I would originally say, `No, this is a bad idea, let’s not do that.’ I don’t worry about a lot of stuff like that. That’s always been my nature. So in consideration of others that I found out were truly disturbed over there, we have to do something,” said Seferian.
Councilman Sandy Bihn said that such security measures were unnecessary since the city is not crime-ridden.
“I was at One Government Center before coming to the council meeting. The security there is that you go to the front desk, give them your ID, they look in your purse, and you walk in,” said Bihn. “In Oregon, as I understand it, you’ll now sign in and walk through a scanner, which is a step above what is happening at Government Center. I’m just really sad to hear…our community has to go to these measures. I don’t know if there was a better way to handle the incident rather than taking these rather extreme steps. I am thinking of someone who’s handicapped. It would be easier to go in the other door because it’s closer to get into the offices like the utility department or the tax department. This is a longer walk and access is a little tougher. In terms of handicapped access and other issues with this, if there’s any other way of addressing it, I would encourage the administration to look at all options. In this day and age, I know sometimes it’s necessary, but I really dislike it. I think we’re a pretty safe c
Community. It kind of gives the wrong message. I hope there are other measures that can be taken.”
Seferian said he also didn’t like the tighter security.
“We will be looking at as many options as possible. I don’t like it at all. I had to kind of overlook my personal views and respect the views of others, said Seferian. “We certainly will entertain any idea of making it as least intrusive as possible,” he said.