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City/County Building To Get Metal Detectors

All visitors to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center will soon have to pass through a metal detector, as part security upgrades that will cost nearly half-a million dollars. The city and county will split the tab. Charlotte City council members will vote on the plan tonight. When they sit in seats, lined up in the front of a meeting room, is personal safety really on their mind? "Anybody that told you it didn't cross their mind would not be being truthful, of course it does," says City Councilman David Howard. A number of other council members and county commissioners say the same thing, particularly in light of the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords last year. City Building Services Superintendent Sue Rutledge says that's what prompted her office to take another look at government center security. "We surveyed to see what other (cities) are doing and this is just the way things are going in the country," says Rutledge. County Commissioner Dumont Clarke says the installation of metal detectors at the government center is "sad, but frankly I think it's probably appropriate." Clarke and other local officials WFAE spoke with worry the metal detectors may discourage people from participating in government meetings. But Superintendent Rutledge says the process won't be as laborious as airport screening: Shoes will stay on in most cases. And she notes security guards already check bags and scan people with a metal-detecting wand on city and county meeting nights. "I think this'll speed it up because now we're wanding people, which takes some time," says Rutledge. "And, you, know the wand feels to me a little more intrusive than walking through a walk-through unit." Rutledge says metal detectors for the public and security-badge turnstiles at employee entrances will be installed in the Government Center before summertime at a total cost of $468,000. MEETING INFO: 7 p.m., February 13 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center 600 E. Fourth St. Charlotte, NC 28202