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What is Benton City Hall being protected from?

By Geoffrey Ritter
Posted on 12/2/2016, 3:37 PM

When it comes to safety in this day and age, where do you draw the line?

We reported this week in the Evening News on new security measures at Benton City Hall, where citizens still can get in the door to see their various city officials, but not without first dialing their extensions on a lobby telephone. The offices themselves remain entrenched behind a locked door marked "Employees Only" – although, it should be duly noted, you are their employer.

"You have to keep in mind the society we're living in," Finance Commissioner Dennis Miller said in the story, referencing this week's violent attack at Ohio State University. "That could have easily happened here."

Sadly, this is true. Displays of public violence are so common in America that we have become largely numb to them. Movie theaters, churches, nightclubs, colleges – the list goes on and on. Today, Dec. 2, marks the one-year anniversary of the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., that left 14 dead and another 22 injured. So many other horrors have unfolded since then.

Elsewhere in this week's paper, we provided details about new "active shooter training" classes taking place at Rend Lake College. Geared toward schools and businesses, the classes are intended to give participants training "to identify the offender, profile that individual, and understand and implement a plan for dealing with the attack." The college is offering the classes beginning in January. There's obviously a growing concern.

Which brings us back to Benton City Hall. Miller worked with Police Chief Kyle Melvin to develop a plan for the building that included turning a formerly half wall into a full wall, installing the locked door and adding 10 security cameras across the premises. Both men concede the new physical fixtures wouldn't stand up to a serious attack, but they would go a long way toward deterring one, or at least greatly slowing its progress.

In this day and age, government officials on even the most local level have a legitimate desire and need for safety. Their concerns are valid. At the same time, however, Miller could not recall a single altercation that has occurred at city hall. Benton Police have no record of any calls to city hall offices in the past several years. When questioned about the security at a recent city council meeting, Miller cited the safety concerns, while Mayor Kondritz said it would prevent people from interrupting meetings at city hall.

All of which again begs the question: When it comes to safety, where do you draw the line?

Perhaps even more acutely, from what menace is that locked door and "Employees Only" sign truly meant to protect city employees?

I look forward to hearing their employers' thoughts on this. Drop me a line anytime at