In the interest of tighter security, the Edina City Hall starting Monday will have a single public entrance rather than the two it has now.
For Edina officials, the catalyst was the May 31 shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach, Va., where a disgruntled city employee fatally shot 12 people and wounded four others.
“It’s something we’ve been talking about for a couple of years,” City Manager Scott Neal said. “It was one of those back-burner things that was brought to the front burner.”
Across the Twin Cities, city managers and security advisers say they are constantly reassessing their buildings and training employees in how to handle emergencies ranging from severe weather to active shooters.
At Minneapolis’ turreted City Hall, all entrances remain open. But City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins wants to establish new security measures to protect city workers as well as the public.
Those measures might include security guards at entries, a sign-in spot and metal detectors similar to those at the Hennepin County Government Center. The municipal building set to open next year across from City Hall will have fewer entrances.
New Hope city workers this summer will move into a new municipal building with tighter security. In 2015, a man walked into City Hall there and opened fire, wounding two officers before being killed by return fire. The City Council was meeting at the time.
City leaders by and large have emphasized the need to stay open and accessible.
“We’re here to serve the public in a way that they’ve come to expect,” said Bloomington Police Deputy Chief Mike Hartley.
Neal said he hopes that Edina’s decision isn’t viewed as a big deal. About 95% of public visitors already use the entrance that will remain open on City Hall’s west side, he said. The one that will be closed to all but city staffers, on the east side, is used mostly by contractors needing permits.
Most metro area cities have secured areas that can only be entered by employees with badges. To control unsecured entrances, city officials say visibility is a priority — being able to see what’s happening there and in more open common areas.
Hartley said Bloomington’s City Hall was designed so those spaces could be easily monitored. Edina’s problem is that entrances at opposite ends of the building make it difficult to monitor both, Neal said.
A sampling of other cities indicates they’re actively monitoring what’s needed.
Wayzata City Hall has renovations underway that include opening up the entryway to “see who’s coming and going,” City Manager Jeff Dahl said. “It’s good timing that we’re doing that.”
Better sightlines won’t stop a threatening person from entering, Dahl said, but if it comes to that “we have a little bit more time to react.”
Burnsville City Manager Melanie Mesko Lee said that visitors go past a reception desk upon entering the municipal building. She said security enhancements may be considered in future renovations.
At Blaine’s City Hall, where the public has two entry points and employees use key cards, City Manager Clark Arneson said no changes have been considered. He pointed out that a police officer always monitors City Council meetings.
In Woodbury, spokesman Jason Egerstrom wrote in an e-mail message that the city hadn’t done anything in response to recent events but is always looking for improvements, especially in future building projects.
“We have ramped up security measures in our buildings in recent years, including with the recent remodeling of our council chambers in 2017,” he wrote.
The entrance to St. Paul City Hall is the same as that of the Ramsey County Courthouse, so all visitors pass through metal detectors. That’s a step beyond that taken by free-standing city buildings, even in Edina.
“You can still wear your shoes and your coats,” Neal said of the sole remaining City Hall entrance. “There’s no checking of weapons or anything.”
Staff writer Miguel Otárola contributed to this story. Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747 Twitter: @rochelleolson