Miami-Dade doubles security after undisclosed incidents
Miami-Dade lawmakers have for months enjoyed stronger security at County Hall, but in retroactively approving the more than $2 million in upgrades last week, some wanted to know why it was needed.
“Have we received a bomb threat?” Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr. asked at the Oct. 3 county commission meeting.
Tara Smith, director of Internal Services, declined to go into specifics, saying only that “several specific incidents” prompted her to declare an emergency March 6 so her department could access funds from the county’s Homestead Exemption Mitigation Reserve to beef up safety measures at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center.
The upgrades, a Sept. 19 memo from Mayor Carlos Giménez said, include a $1.2 million x-ray machine, magnetometer and screening equipment costing $497,931, a $224,178 turnstile system, $152,858 in wiring and $320,971 for walls, framing and an exterior barrier on the building’s north side.
The mayor earmarked another $954,000 to pay for “the correct level of security personnel needed based on pedestrian traffic,” for which “adjustments will be made as additional data is collected.”
While no explicit plans exist now for similar measures elsewhere, he continued, county staff will address the safety and security of other buildings as part of the Countywide Infrastructure Investment Program, a 20-year, $1.8 billion initiative to modernize county facilities introduced in the 2020 budget.
“Proceeds of the Homestead Exemption Mitigation Reserve seeded the plan beginning in February, when we directed a portion of that reserve … to replace elevators and enhance security in the Stephen P. Clark Center, expand the [gunfire-tracking] ShotSpotter program and repair county-operated cultural centers,” the mayor wrote in a July 19 outline of the program.
Costs for the added security at County Hall more than doubled the county’s cumulative funding allocation for security, from about $1.76 million to $3.68 million, a memo from Deputy Mayor Ed Marquez said.
“I know we confiscate weapons. I’ve talked to our guys. They’ve taken knives [from people], but I just – we literally went from one level of security to TSA-style security, and it’s a little concerning,” Mr. Bovo said. “If there is a threat, I think the board should know about it.”
Commission Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson agreed and directed Ms. Smith to meet with each commissioner and provide details.
Vice Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa requested a report on what’s being done in Tallahassee in terms of security at government buildings and asked Mr. Giménez, then asked which county personnel are allowed to circumvent security.
“Elected officials who have the badge … can go through without being screened, but everybody else, including everybody from my staff, is screened,” he said. “It’s just me and you all, and that’s it.”
Further safeguards should be added outside the building, said Commissioner Sally Heyman, whose legal work outside county government includes opining on premises liability.
Ms. Heyman said she’d spoken with the mayor and his predecessors about moving the bollards near the entrance of County Hall out to the side of the street to keep vehicles from being able to pull up close to the building.
“It’s as simple as taking a forklift, without spending [over a] million dollars,” she said. “What are we waiting for?”
Mr. Giménez said efforts to do that – or something similar – are imminent.
“Within about a month or so,” he said, “you’re going to see active measures taken outside the chambers.”