During a time when it seems like public displays of violence across the country are becoming more commonplace, the city of Ringgold has begun taking steps to improve safety measures at city hall.
Ringgold officials are considering the installation of bullet-resistant glass at the front administration office of city hall, where citizens frequently stop in to ask questions or pay bills and fines. But the safety feature comes at a steeper price than the city was originally hoping — more than $40,000, according to a preliminary estimate from KCP Architects, based in Rossville.
City council members unanimously voted at the Jan. 22 council meeting to move ahead with the bidding process anyway.
Vice Mayor Terry Crawford said this topic has been on his mind for some time, making a reference to the mass shootings he sees being covered on the news. Although Ringgold is a small city, it is not immune to such violence, Crawford said.
"Those ladies that we have working in there, I've talked to all of them and they are scared to death sometimes with all these people walking in," Crawford said at the meeting. "And if this money spent saves one life or injury, it's the best money we can spend anywhere. That's my opinion."
City Manager Dan Wright said the city is concerned about the safety of the workers who often deal with people who get upset about paying fines or other matters. Ringgold City Hall houses the council chambers, police department, city court and utility and finance departments.
"Local schools are adding security and many churches are resorting to having security measures in place," Wright said. "The mayor and council are being proactive in at least gathering information."
At the meeting, Wright broke down KCP's estimate of about $43,800, which includes $20,000 for the glass, $7,000 for steel panels, $5,500 to secure the facade, $6,500 for overhead/profit and roughly $4,800 for any unseen expenses.
The city named three other Georgia cities that have already installed bullet-resistant glass: McRae-Helena, Adel and Dallas.
Of those three cities, only Dallas could provide the cost of its bullet-resistant glass. In a follow-up interview, Dallas City Manager Kendall Smith said the glass was installed for the full length of the customer service desk in city hall, from the countertop to the ceiling, for $7,500 total.
"It is not a fail-safe solution, but it is something to add some protection in an uncertain world," he said.
When asked about the cost difference and whether that is affected by size, Wright said there are many different variables that affect the cost, like adding soffit across the top of the ceiling to anchor the glass, varying levels of bullet-resistant glass that offer different levels of protection, and including steel panels that would be placed on the base of the counter's walls.
"Hopefully, in a couple of months we will have the actual bid opening and we can have a better and more educated conversation at that time," said Wright.
Fort Oglethorpe, the only other city in Catoosa County, has a single piece of bullet-resistant glass behind a bench in the city's municipal court that was donated by a police officer, but does not have bullet-resistant glass at its administrative offices.
"This is something that has been discussed, and it may [be] implemented in the future, as ensuring the safety of employees is top priority," said City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins.
Councilman Larry Black said he was surprised at the estimated cost, but he agreed with Crawford that security for staff is important.
"I do hope going forward that we do get a number of cost estimates and quotes and we make a good decision going forward on how we can accomplish security for our admin staff that work here at city hall," Black said.
Wright said there will be a four-week bid process before the decision comes back to city council members for a vote.
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