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Lawmakers hear $30 million request for Capitol security upgrades

One of the most visible security upgrades made to the Capitol Mall is the vehicle barrier at either end of the Aurora Promenade. Photo by Paul Battaglia

More than $30 million in security upgrades are needed to help protect facilities in the Capitol Complex against potential threats ranging from criminal activity to well-planned extremist attacks, House lawmakers heard Tuesday.

That sobering news was delivered during a House Capital Investment Committee meeting that included an informational hearing on HF3446, which would appropriate $33.5 million to fund security improvements to 13 buildings around the Capitol.

Chris Guevin, director of facilities management at the Capitol Complex, said needed improvements include installation of barriers to keep vehicles away from certain buildings, projectile resistant glass, additional security kiosks and emergency call stations.

Those safety measures were identified in a study commissioned by the Advisory Committee on Capitol Area Security, which was formed in 2012 to examine security issues and offer the Legislature recommendations on potential improvements in an annual report.

One of the many security cameras that watch over the Capitol interior space. An advisory report on Capitol-area security says more than $30 million is needed for upgrades. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Soon after it was created, the committee hired a consultant to conduct a physical security study of the Capitol Complex to identify threats and vulnerabilities. Completed in 2014, the study identified 139 vulnerabilities that could result in loss of life and impact government operations. The study did not include security needs at the Capitol itself, or the Minnesota Senate Building, which were addressed as part of separate projects.

Although previous bonding requests to fund the recommended improvements were unsuccessful, Gov. Mark Dayton has requested $33.48 million for the upgrades in his 2018 supplemental budget, and the advisory committee’s 2018 report recommended the Legislature “fully fund” $33.5 million in security upgrades.

Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia), who sponsors HF3346 and is a member of the advisory committee, said the improvements are needed to ensure the safety of the 9,500 people who work around the Capitol and the hundreds of thousands of visitors who pass through each year.

“It’s something we owe to the public to shore up defenses here at the Capitol,” Nash said.

But Rep. Raymond Dehn (DFL-Mpls) questioned how effective the facilities upgrades would be without also talking about operational improvements to address issues such as guns in the Capitol Complex.

“If we’re going to spend over $30 million we need to have that much broader conversation,” Dehn said. “I realize that given the current climate of conversations around some things that might be a really hard conversation. But I didn’t come here for the easy conversations.”

The companion, SF3224, is sponsored by Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) and awaits action by the Senate Capital Investment Committee.

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