Supervisors seek added security at workplace

In the wake of Sept. 11, Prince William County government leaders say they are more worried than ever about unwanted visitors to their offices, panic alarms that don’t work and government buildings where people can enter through back doors.

Because of their positions, and some scary local occurrences, county officials are looking for greater building security measures and are pouring $1.3 million into a county building security program focusing on the four main government offices: the McCoart Administration Center and the Owens Center off Prince William Parkway; the Ferlazzo Building off Cardinal Drive; and Sudley North off Ashton Avenue.

The sooner the better for picture identification badges, said Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan, R-Dumfries, who along with other supervisors was presented with the plan May 21.

The McCoart Administration Center is where the county’s main government operations are. The county executive, finance and planning offices are there. At Ferlazzo, the tax, social services and community services offices are located. Their counterpart for those services is in Sudley North.

The Owens Building, a secured building not open to the public, is behind McCoart. That’s where the county’s mainframe computers, servers, and 911 services are.

At the Ferlazzo Building, Caddigan said, she has been startled by unexpected people in her office. Supervisor Mary K. Hill, R-Coles, said she caught cleaning crews rifling through her desk at Ridgewood Center and they accidentally set off the panic alarm, notifying the police. The crews have since been changed, but the incidents highlight the need for stronger security measures, she said.

“Anyone can come in Ferlazzo at any time,” Caddigan said. “Keep in mind we are very vulnerable there.” She asked for keypads outside her door and that of Supervisor Hilda M. Barg, D-Woodbridge, whose office is also at Ferlazzo. Those types of checks are not routinely done except for individuals in public safety or high exposure areas, County Executive Craig S. Gerhart said. Supervisor John D. Jenkins, D-Neabsco, said the office alarms should be checked routinely to make sure they are working because private security firms sometimes change and they may no longer be working.

The county is moving toward identification badges for employees at McCoart, which experiences a great deal of traffic.

But visitors to McCoart will not be asked to sign in or wear badges, Gerhart said. The county wants to give the public the freedom to do business there. “I don’t think you’re going to find us going overboard,” he said.

In reality, many of the considerations were already under way before Sept. 11, Gerhart said.

The county police department did a public facility review in 1996 finding weaknesses in several areas, including no central access control system at the main facilities.

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