Camanche to enhance security at city facilities

CAMANCHE — The city of Camanche is looking to improve city buildings' safety.

Camanche Police Chief Colin Reid during Tuesday's goal-setting session referenced input the city previously received about city hall from a representative of Homeland Security. Reid said the Homeland Security expert said the building was remodeled well but had concerns with the layout of city hall.

"They (city hall employees) have no way to defend themselves. No way to get out of that situation and there's no quick way to get us there," Reid said. "It needs to be a more secure front lobby for them. He had real concerns about that. We're armed police officers and in my lobby, at least, it's fortified there. That may not ever happen in Camanche but it could happen in Camanche in the next 10 minutes and they have no way to get out of that situation. That little board I put up's not going to stop anybody, unfortunately."

Reid also referenced the layout of the room where City Council meetings are held, stating there is no easy exit for members of the City Council.

"It's happened in the state of Iowa where people come in to make a stand and I need to be able to get you out quickly," Reid said. "And that's our nearest exit. And that exit's ruled out probably at the time of crisis. And if we had another, just an emergency exit, door there or something to get folks out quick. It's always run, hide, fight. Fight is third. Run is first. When we need to run, we need to run. And we need to have a place to run to."

Camanche City Administrator Andrew Kida said the city budgeted $15,000 for city hall improvements. He also cited the number of transactions the city handles during bill time.

Camanche Fire Chief Dave Schutte recommended the city consider utilizing available space at the Camanche Fire Department to hold meetings, which he also suggested when the city moved to the current city hall location. The proposed meeting location at the fire department would have three exits, according to Schutte.

"We have a perfect room over there that can be set up and used for that," Schutte said. "The fire department's a city building. This could all be used for office or whatever other functional area that you needed and those meetings could be held over there. It's not that big of a deal. I offered it up then and I'll offer it up again as we move forward with that."

Schutte also requested the city consider improving the security of the fire department by adding a vestibule or another method to improve building security. Schutte said visitors currently can open the door and come in when visiting the fire station. He does not believe it is normal for fire stations to allow visitors to open the door and enter without checking in first. He added the door is locked when the fire department is on a call but during normal business hours a visitor can just open the door and enter the fire station. Two sides of the building are covered with the police department's cameras, Schutte said.

"When I'm at my computer, my back's to the door," Schutte said. "Whenever the door comes open my head spins around. My desk used to be tucked back that way and I didn't like it because then you never knew when people were coming in. You hate to be like that because it's a fire station. You're there to help people. But you also can't be naive enough to think something couldn't happen there, either."

The council voiced support for improving security of city buildings. Councilwoman Amber Metzger suggested the city focus on four or five projects within the city to make it safer.

"I think we need to be done discussing it and act on it," Metzger said.

Camanche Mayor Trevor Willis suggested the city should look at addressing the safety items first. He also referenced the prevalence of incidents where people come into a building while shooting.

"People are more aware and more scared of it, as they very well should be," Willis said.