Middletown taking steps to improve city building security

11:41 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 Middletown
Middletown officials are developing a plan to close off the front drive to vehicles at the Middletown City Building in an effort to increase security. The City Building houses Middletown’s city administrative offices, the Municipal Court, and the Middletown City Schools administrative offices. ED RICHTER/STAFF

Prohibiting vehicles in front of Middletown’s City Building is among the measures being considered to improve security where city, municipal court and school district offices are located.

Recent national events, including last month’s shooting of a judge as he walked into a courthouse in Ohio, has prompted “robust discussions” between Middletown police and Municipal Judge Melynda Cook Howard and her staff about building security, according to City Manager Doug Adkins.

“We’re concerned that it’s an ongoing security risk … if someone wanted to show up in Oklahoma (City)-style bombing and pull their van up there and get out and blow the building up, it would be easy to do,” Adkins said.

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The city building at 1 Donham Plaza opened in 1976 and houses the city’s administrative offices, municipal court, police headquarters and jail, and the Middletown City School District’s administrative offices.

Police recommended upgrades about four years ago, such as improving locks and building access doors, which were handled internally, according to Adkins.

However, officials are now considering closing the driveway in front of the city building permanently.

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“You could walk in and shoot people and walk right back out get in the car and be gone,” Adkins said. “It’s the type of thing that we hope never happens … But we’re always trying to balance that between safety and public access.”

Adding metal detectors at the building’s entrance “might be a little expensive and a little tough,” Adkins said.

Police have increased security at the City Building, including adding more cameras inside the building and in the parking lots, according to Middletown police Lt. Jimmy Cunningham.

If the city moves forward on the recommendation, the law department will need to ensure any changes are compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, Adkins said. That may involve creating additional parking spaces, reconfiguring sidewalks, and redesigning entrances to make it easier to people with the disabilities to access the city building.

“It will take a lot of work,” Adkins said.

Councilman Talbott Moon said officials should move forward on the plan.

Vice Mayor Dora Bronston agreed with Moon, adding “… there are so many things going on around the country right now that we need to be proactive and more and more cautious than we have been in the past.”

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