Security concerns arise after Municipal Court move


Liz Fabian

Bibb County sheriff’s deputies no longer staff the Government Center metal detector after Municipal Court moved to the courthouse.

Many Macon-Bibb County leaders and employees are more vulnerable to security threats now than ever before.

The recent move of Municipal Court from Government Center to the courthouse means Bibb County sheriff’s deputies no longer staff the metal detector in the building.

Before consolidation, police officers were working on the first floor and in the adjoining former Detective Bureau.

Panic buttons in the building could be pushed to alert officers of an emergency.

“Right now if you push the panic button there’s no one to see it because they’ve already left,” Commissioner Virgil Watkins said.

Bibb County sheriff’s deputies are sometimes on hand during county commission meetings, but most days there is no law enforcement presence in the building and no restricted access.

Mayor Robert Reichert asked architect Bob Brown to take a look at the building and make some recommendations on ways to tighten security.

Brown told commissioners Tuesday that the historic building poses many challenges. The street level door facing Poplar Street can not be widened due to masonry supports for the portico.

He suggested possibly building a modern glass vestibule on the front to create a larger entrance that’s handicapped accessible but more study is needed.

“Where will we get the money to do this? Good gracious,” Mayor Reichert exclaimed.

Bibb County sheriff’s Major Eric Walker said local leaders need to be more security conscious.

“City Hall is way too open,” Walker said. “I don’t want Macon to be known as a news story across the nation.”

Walker pointed out that enhancing security could be a lengthy process.

One proposal would to be lock down most entrances and give employees key cards to enter.

Commissioner Valerie Wynn bristled about locking doors to the “people’s building” but she was not aware of the lack of security.

“I feel kinda naked,” she admitted.

Commissioner Mallory Jones said there should be something done immediately.

“At the very least right now, we need somebody in this building every day, not just when we have meetings,” Jones said. “There’s nobody to prevent anyone to walk into the building.”

Liz Fabian
Currently visitors to Macon Government Center do not pass through any security measures when entering the building.

Sheriff David Davis said he needs the commission’s help.

“I really don’t have people to take from,” Davis said.

Any officer reassigned would leave a void on the street or in the jail and could increase response times in other areas of the county, he said.

Davis thought having a deputy assigned to patrol the building could be the easiest short-term solution.

Reichert asked County Manager Keith Moffett to immediately begin an assessment of the security needs and form an ad hoc committee to come up with short- and long-term goals for improving security.

SPLOST funds left over from public safety spending could be a possible source of funding, he said.

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at [email protected] or phone 478-301-2976.