By Crystal Harward
The N.C. General Assembly is continuing efforts to increase security at the Legislative Building by remodeling the structure and increasing police presence, although funding for large-scale safety measures has not yet been discussed.
The Secret Service issued a report in April offering 140 recommendations for improvement.
The legislature's security came under increased scrutiny after Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
There was also a bomb threat at the N.C. Legislative Building on Aug. 27.
George Hall, administrative director of the legislative complex, said improvements were under way even before the incidents.
"Small improvements like lights being left on overnight, trimming hedges, replacing broken internal door locks and placing locks on electrical cabinets were all taking place before these incidents," he said. "If there was any effect on the resolve to improve security it was only to begin working faster."
Sen. Virginia Foxx, R-Alleghany, said state troopers and Raleigh city police began looking for abnormal activity around the Capitol after the bomb threat.
"I didn't take the bomb threat (to the legislature) seriously, but after Tuesday we must," Foxx said. "We have to be more careful in the future."
She added that it is becoming more difficult for unauthorized vehicles to enter the Legislative Building. "Before, anyone could drive into the building."
Although officials agree better security is needed, there are disagreements about the specific measures that need to be taken.
Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, said there are concerns that attempts to improve security might restrict public access to the Legislative Building.
"People need to be able to contact us, their elected representatives," he said.
But Hall said these concerns are unfounded because the inside of the building will not be changed.
"Access may be slowed if they use identification or metal detectors, but once inside there would be no difference," he said.
But proposed improvements will not be cheap. The small changes already made only have cost several hundred dollars, but major improvements being discussed are a different issue.
Hall said after consulting an architect to mend structural problems, he estimates that costs could approach $1 million.
Major security improvements have not been discussed or budgeted for by the Legislature, but Hall insists that funding will not be a problem.
"Policies will have to change and people will have to be advised," he said.
While troopers and police wait outside the Legislature doors, the General Assembly continues meeting.
"(I'm) sorry for what has created the need for increased security," Foxx said. "But (I'm) grateful for the people willing to protect us."
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