Historic City News reporters are often surprised at the types of expenditures and shenanigans that glide in and out of city and county commission meetings with full approval; and, completely under the radar through a portentous bit of parliamentary procedure known as the “consent agenda”.
The Monday night meeting of the St Augustine City Commission will be no exception.
Without public discussion, unless pulled by a sitting commissioner Monday night, a request by the Commission for security enhancements to the Alcazar meeting room, together with the funding for its up-front and continuing costs, will be approved.
In a memorandum from Police Chief Loran K. Lueders to City Manager John Regan, the Chief sets out what he refers to as “the most cost effective way for us to accomplish this task” — referring to items discussed between the two at the behest of the commission.
Relying on Lueders recommendation, Regan presumes the commission will approve the following security measures:
• Change the commission table to make it bullet resistant.
• Change the door behind the Commissioners so that it opens outward into the room behind them, instead swinging inward into the commission room.
• Place a railing with a swinging gate across the room at your desk, and in front of the podium.
• Purchase two metal detecting wands.
• Require all people entering the room to place their metal objects into a basket, then a Police Officer will use the metal detecting wand to ensure that there are no further weapons or contraband upon their person.
• If the subjects are carrying a bag, it will be visually searched.
• Place an additional Police Officer at the back door of the commission meeting room during the entire meeting to ensure that everyone entering and re-entering the room is screened.
By placing an item on the “consent agenda” it presumes that no public discussion is necessary and that the city manager or his designee simply proceeds with the matter at hand. Since this plan of action directly impacts how citizens who attend public meetings will be treated, it would seem appropriate to open the item up for discussion.
Cost estimates to implement the enhanced security, if it is determined to be necessary for the safety of elected officials, city staff, or others, exceeds $15,000 and presumes an ongoing salary and benefits commitment for a law enforcement officer to stand guard at the door and frisk citizens with a hand-held metal detector as they approach.
The largest single expenditure is $8,000 for a “bullet-resistant table”. The smallest itemized expenditure is $10 each for “plastic baskets”; presumably citizens are not able to empty their pockets into the type plastic basket commonly found in a dollar store.