Dallas City Hall Security to Close Entrances; Visitors Have Mixed Feelings

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Tuesday, Jan 15, 2013  |  Updated 8:55 PM CDT
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Dallas City Hall is planning tough new security measures that will change the way citizens use the iconic building for city business.

Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News

Dallas City Hall is planning tough new security measures that will change the way citizens use the iconic building for city business.

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Tougher Dallas City Hall security plans call for closing up to five of the seven street-level entrances to limit access and add X-ray scanning at remaining doors.

Next week, the City Council will be asked to spend $80,000 for two X-ray machines.

The iconic building designed by architect I.M. Pei was constructed in the 1970s to provide open public access.

"We actually have tourists from across the world that come just to see this building while they're in Dallas, but it does present some challenges from today's security environment," said Errik Thompson, city equipment and building services director.

Over the years, added security measures have included closing the underground parking garage to the general public, restricting access to many offices, adding metal detectors at the entrance to City Council meeting rooms and cordoning off elected officials' seating areas.

Armed security guards also patrol other City Hall areas that are still open to visitors.

"That helps us not at all with what people may be bringing in inside a bag or under clothing, so we think, again, this is a prudent step to try to increase security for the public, elected officials and employees that work here and are down here every day," Thompson said.

Officials are still reviewing which of the existing entrances may be closed in the new security plan.

City Hall visitors Tuesday had mixed feelings about the new limitations.

"I don't like it at all," said Crystal Kurowicki. "I think all of it should be open, all of it should be used."

She and Doris O'Connor came looking for the Texas Department of Public Safety Drivers License office, which recently closed at City Hall, reducing the number of future visitors who would pass through the X-ray machines.

"That says a lot about where the country has been going with gun control and the violence we've been having," O'Connor said. "But I think our security officers to a really good job, and they're here in case something happens."

Other visitors were willing to change their habits to increase security.

"I think it's a light inconvenience, but in the cost of saving one life, that life's worth it," J.T. Johnson said.

Natalie Ortega has used the east side doors for years to enter for water bill payments but said she can find another door if that entrance closes.

"It's a good idea for protection, yes. A lot of things are happening and we've got to be safe," Ortega said.

The new X-ray equipment will not be delivered for another two months if the City Council agrees to the purchase at the Jan. 23 meeting.

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