Council asks for plan, enhanced security for meetings
Concerned over attacks on elected officials across the country, Indian Trail’s town council pushed for a new safety and security plan during their Tuesday, April 26 meeting. The original request from council member Robert Allen was for a vote on allowing those officials with concealed carry permits to bring handguns into meetings. North Carolina law however prohibits that, so instead council members asked staff members to research and work on some potential changes to current procedures, in order to address possible safety issues.
“This is a very real situation,” Allen told the council. “You go to your elementary schools, your middle schools, they have a (policy) in place.”
The proposal, which was voted on and unanimously approved, calls for staff members to work on improving the lighting outside the town’s civic building on Navejo Trail, where meetings are held. Town council meetings often run past 9 pm at night, when the parking lot is completely dark aside from a few lights scattered on the edges. Staff members will also work with Lt. Chase Coble and his group of contract deputies, to determine if security cameras need to be installed for the building, as well as work out a way to position deputies during a meeting.
“I don’t think anybody thinks (an attack) is going to happen, until it does and it’s too late,” council member Gary D’Onofrio said.
Other considerations included the possibility of designating certain parking spaces for council members. While the council supported the idea, Indian Trail Mayor John Quinn questioned the need for it, arguing it would do little to prevent an actual attack.
“Evil exists, (there are) insane individuals, if they want to kill someone, they’re gonna do it,” Quinn said, adding he was more concerned about verbal, rather than physical attacks. As an example, he brought up the decision by a prior town council to limit his access to town employees. “You guys are worried about assassination, I’m more worried about character assassination.”
Quinn also questioned why the topic was on the agenda, saying that council members should know it’s not legal to carry guns to the meeting. Allen and other council members responded that the topic was broader than just a focus on weapons, feeling the town needed a policy, something in place to address security concerns.
“To do nothing would have shirked our responsibilities as a council,” Indian Trail Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Goodall said, bringing up the fact the town’s ABC store has a more up to date security system than the civic building does. “We protect the bottles of liquor more than we do the town council and residents,” Goodall said.
Former council member Shirley Howe also spoke out during the public comments portion of the meeting, saying she understood the impulse, but asked that guns be kept out of the hands of everyone but the deputies.
“I’m opposed to bearing arms on municipal property,” Howe said, adding she was sympathetic to the concerns, as she knows at times emotions can spiral out of control. “The only person I want to carry a firearm is Lt. Coble and his officers.”
Howe endorsed the idea to provide better lighting in the parking lot, while also suggesting the town conduct a security check as people enter the meeting, through either a metal detector or similar concept.