Protection for the ‘first family’ of West Virginia - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Protection for the ‘first family’ of West Virginia

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Protection comes at a cost.

In this case, that cost is a little over $200,000 and the protection is a fence around the governor’s mansion next to the state Capitol building in Charleston.

It is a six year plan that involves adding the fence and wall to the grounds.

On May 14, the Capitol Building Commission moved forward with a plan to build a wall and fence around the mansion. Those involved said the wall would offer some protection to the first family.

“It’s been an ongoing discussion as far as security for protecting government buildings and the people who work and visit them,” said Lawrence Messina, communications director for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. “Unfortunately, you can cite incidents that underscore the need to protect (government) assets.”

Messina said the plans to build the fence around the mansion were not prompted by one specific incident, but rather are meant to enhance the security measures currently in place.

Making it reasonable

He said it’s all about finding the right balance.

Messina said the measures should be “reasonable” but recognize “the fact that this is a positive attraction both citizens and visitors to our state want to come here and these steps should not inhibit that.”

Messina said it was important to note the designer of the governor’s mansion had a fence much like the one planned in mind when designing the building.

“The low wall will serve a dual purpose, seating for visitors and not too high that it’s obstructive to the obvious beauty of the campus,” Messina said.

Diane Holley-Brown, communications director for the West Virginia Department of Administration, said the $225,000 contract awarded to GAI Consultants was issued through the Purchasing Division. A change was made making the total value of the contract $237,000.

Before any project can begin at the Capitol, there must be a design contract issued to an architectural and engineering firm, Holley-Brown said. The firm is responsible for developing the design and preparing documents that are used in soliciting bids for the actual construction contracts.

She said the procedures are outlined in the Purchasing Division Procedures Handbook, available at WVPurchasing.gov.

“Since the Capitol Building Commission has approved this project to move forward, the next step is for DMAPS and General Services to work with GAI to finalize the bid documents for the construction phase of the project, which will ultimately be competitively bid through the Purchasing Division,” she added.

The construction is supposed to begin sometime in August.

Holley-Brown said in terms of maintenance of the Capitol grounds, the construction might actually help in repairing some aspects of the campus.

She said the General Services Division will “continue to provide the same level of professional service as it has in the past.”

And, there was consideration by the (architect and engineering) firm to assess the sloped areas on campus, assisting the General Services Division in performing maintenance and upkeep services on campus.

Potential risks lead to awareness

The Capitol already has a security plan in place that includes the use of its own police force and it is monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, officials said the security fence to protect the governor’s mansion would be more of an extra precaution in a day where there are real concerns over the issue.

Messina pointed to 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing, citing that it is upsetting there are examples that can be used while at the same time showing West Virginians that they are trying to take steps in a minimal way.

Prior safety methods

The Capitol has several methods of security including gates at the front entrance of the building which were added in 2012.

Those who enter the West Virginia State Capitol Complex began having to pass through the gates for enhanced security purposes on Nov. 12, 2012.

The measures were, at the time, implemented to improve security on the Capitol campus. The sliding gates around the Capitol close every evening at 7:30 p.m., remaining closed until 5:30 a.m. the next business day. The gates stay closed on weekends and holidays. Exceptions are made for special events that have been approved by the Department of Administration.

The bollards around the entire complex are meant to keep cars from running over the complex and were previously considered for the governor’s mansion but later deemed unattractive.