by Pam Zubeck
UPDATE: County Administrator Jeff Greene says the commissioners' dais was reinforced against gunfire after commissioners were concerned with their safety due to attacks on public officials in other parts of the country and a stalking incident of an El Paso County commissioner last year. He wouldn't identify the commissioner, and nothing came of the stalking, though he described the individual as "menacing." He didn't know if a police report was ever filed or whether the person was armed.
"The commissioners are pro-gun. They support the Second Amendment. They want people to have concealed carry and to carry unconcealed. There was a concern of some of the commissioners when this [stalking] happened last year," he says in an interview. "We do have a security guard that sits at the entrance of the facility [Centennial Hall]. Also, we have a security guard dressed in plain clothes that will observe the proceedings as well.
"Some of the commissioners were concerned about their safety," he adds, refusing to name which commissioners. "We live in a very different environment today. There's been countless events across the country where public officials have been in harm's way."
He says the county decided that installing Kevlar in the dais was better than placing a metal detector at the door to the meeting room.
——————ORIGINAL POST WEDNESDAY, April 18, 10:37 a.m.————————
El Paso County commissioners spent nearly $7,000 to install "ArmorShield" in their dais in Centennial Hall.
In other words, they bullet-proofed the desk where they sit to conduct meetings.
ArmorShield's website says the company "prides itself on its ability to design and manufacture soft and hard armor products."
We have strived to identify those issues that have plagued officers for years and offer simple and well-thought solutions that make the wearing of armor easier than ever before.
ArmorShield USA provides the end user with leading edge technology in soft ballistic armor packages. We are proud to have developed our patented Blunt Trauma System (BTS) which decreases the potential trauma a person receives when taking live fire.
We also provide the option of hard armor insert plates to protect against High Velocity Threat (HVT) ammunition.
Another document provided by the county shows that Infinity Composites Inc., Ashtabula, Ohio, provided "Kevlar Bullet Resistant" panels. The protection rating and panel size was redacted by the county before releasing the documents.
Asked how come commissioners are concerned about the possibility of taking live fire, Commissioner Sallie Clark begged off, claiming no part in the decision.
"I haven't been involved in that. I really haven't," Clark tells the Indy. "Facilities obviously was involved. I didn't ask for it. I know there are security issues that others consider when they're designing buildings, but I really can't speak to it because I wasn't involved in the design. I leave that up to the experts who deal with security issues to work that out. If that's something they felt was important, that was part of the design of the entire facility. I don't get involved in the security issues of El Paso County."
County spokeswoman Jennifer Brown says the installation, which cost $6,676.88, according to county records obtained by the Indy, was to protect commissioners. But she says she doesn't know whether a specific incident led to the addition. She says she'll check and get back to us.
We found only one instance of a governing body considering the installation of Kevlar, a bullet-proof material, in a dais. It was discussed by the Bloomington, Minn., City Council in 2001 but we don't know if it was installed. We've called the town to find out.
Check back with us later for more.