Village hall safety and security discussed in Hobart
By Ben Rodgers
HOBART – Village hall safety and security was the big discussion item at the Tuesday, Oct. 15, Hobart village board meeting.
“Me personally, I’m not satisfied with the safety and security provided to office staff here,” said Rich Heidel, board president.
Heidel had the item placed on the agenda after concerns from what he called “an irate utility customer.”
“I would charitably characterize that as not being in the norm,” Heidel said.
He went on to say 98 percent of mass shootings occur in areas with a sign that prohibits weapons, like the one at Hobart village hall.
“We have no distress buttons, we don’t necessarily have an officer in here, we don’t have the requirement anyway, we have what I call an open invitation on our doors when it says ‘Weapons prohibited, come on in,’” he said. “I don’t agree with it. I think the state is silly to think this provides any kind of safety for our staff.”
His suggestion is one Police Chief Randy Bani said would violate state statues.
“I’d like to consider the possibility of allowing individuals to carry concealed in this building,” Heidel said.
Village Administrator Aaron Kramer said it’s a delicate situation when considering the safety and security of village staff.
“I’m not opposed,” Kramer said. “I’m a firm believer in the Second Amendment, the first one, too. I’ve never told the staff you can’t carry a gun. If they are, I don’t ask. If something were to happen, I obviously would be unhappy to hear that they broke our policy. But, if they saved my life, I’d be eternally grateful.”
Bani said because the village hall houses the Hobart/Lawrence Police Department as well as a municipal courtroom, any weapons are prohibited.
“My understanding is, per state law, you’re not supposed to have a gun in the building where there is a court or a police department,” he said. “We have both here, so I don’t know how we’re going to get around that.”
The board directed village staff to come up with safety and security ideas that involve possible modifications to the building and entranceway to be considered for the 2021 budget cycle or beyond.
“I like the idea, but I think we also lose that human touch with our constituents, but that’s the price we pay living in 2019,” Kramer said. “We’re less eager to introduce ourselves to people who walk in this building out of fear vs. greeting them with open arms. But, if I didn’t watch the news at night, I wouldn’t have that paranoia.”
The board also directed staff to proceed with a main water loop extension project in Centennial Centre to be completed in the spring of 2020.
The project involves the connection of the main water main on Centennial Centre Boulevard from North Pine Tree Road to approximately 600 feet west of Thayer Trail.
This would create a loop of the village’s water system and customers in northern Hobart.
Kramer said the project also provides redundancy in the water system, increased fire protection, and eliminates a dead end on the water main.
It would also allow residents the ability to connect to the water and sanitary sewer systems.
The project’s estimated cost of $783,500 would also be covered by funds from Tax Incremental Financing District No. 1, and not require a water rate increase.
“There’s no land acquisition need required for properties, it’s all in village right-of-way, we’re not forcing anyone to hook up, we’re not accessing any property owners, we’re just putting in a water line,” Kramer said. “It’s about as vanilla as you can get.”
This is the second of three phases for water system improvements in Centennial Centre, the first being the now-completed water tower, and the last being an underground water reservoir.
Finally, the village board scheduled three public hearings, which include:
• Nov. 5 to discuss a conditional use permit for a horticultural operation for hemp growing near Four Seasons Park.
• Nov. 19 to discuss the proposed village budget for 2020.
• Nov. 19 to discuss a rezoning request for more than 28 acres of land in the 1200 block of South Pine Tree road from agricultural to residential for a possible multi-family development.