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Buffalo Common Council approves armed security guards for City Hall

Efforts to increase City Hall safety continued Tuesday when the Common Council approved the Brown administration’s plan to bring armed security guards into the building.

The 8-1 vote authorized negotiations on a contract with G4S Security Services at an annual cost of up to $650,000.

When the contract is approved, the security firm will provide armed guards at basement and first-floor entrances to City Hall whose responsibilities are expected to include operating metal detectors and monitoring additional security cameras that the administration wants to purchase and install, said Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana, chairman of the Council’s Finance Committee. Some of the security measures are expected to be in place this summer, Fontana said.

G4S Security is one of eight companies that bid on the contract, Fontana said. G4S officers would replace some police officers assigned to City Hall since the fall, when city police also were given 24-hour access to the building. The armed guards are less costly than police officers, Fontana said. But police officers will remain at the Mayor’s Office and the Treasury and Collections Office.

The Brown administration has said that City Hall is vulnerable to a breach in security and that most Council members agree.

Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk, the only Council member voting against the G4S contract negotiations, said that he understands the need for increased security and doesn’t object to security officers, but that he objects to visitors having to go through metal detectors.

“I am no Pollyanna,” Franczyk said. “I understand the post-9/11 age,” referring to heightened security measures that began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. However, Franczyk said, he wants people to feel welcome coming into City Hall, and he worries that metal detectors have the opposite effect.

Other Council members disagreed, and Fontana noted that someone came into his City Hall office this week carrying a hook knife. The man didn’t intend to use the knife to harm anyone, Fontana said, but he prefers that people not bring knives into City Hall. “Hopefully, in the future, it will be a safer to place to work in, to come in, to do business in,” Fontana said.

The city previously received a $50,000 grant from the state Division of Homeland Security to purchase a metal detector and identification cards for city employees, who will not be subject to the metal detector screening.

A few months ago, Mayor Byron W. Brown asked that as much as $1 million be included in the state budget to help increase City Hall security, mentioning installation of steel bollards around the building, hiring security staff, closing some entrances, X-ray screening equipment and additional security cameras.

“The administration is working with the state delegation to secure funding for the security measures, and we are hopeful that some funding will be secured,” Brown spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said Tuesday.