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Officials to expand school security audit to include Town Hall

Published 12:14 pm, Thursday, January 10, 2013
  • Town Hall will be included in what initially was a security study of Westport schools. Photo: File Photo / Westport News
    Town Hall will be included in what initially was a security study of Westport schools. Photo: File Photo

 

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A study of security at the town's schools will be expanded to include Town Hall, according to First Selectman Gordon Joseloff.

"Town Hall is home to the Board of Education offices, as well as town offices, and it is entirely appropriate that the building be included," Joseloff said in a statement Wednesday.

Board of Education Chairwoman Elaine Whitney agreed to include Town Hall -- where school board offices are located -- in the planned security review, according to Joseloff.

The Board of Finance last week unanimously approved a $50,000 appropriation for the study requested by the school board.

In response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon and education board members have advocated for a new security audit of the Westport school district. The Representative Town Meeting is expected to take up the security audit funding request at its Feb. 5 meeting.

Joseloff added that he has asked Police Chief Dale Call to arrange briefings for town employees at all locations regarding security precautions.

Town Hall security has come under scrutiny by Town Hall officials after several recent incidents.

A Westport woman was arrested Tuesday night after she brought a BB rifle and two boxes of ammunition to a Representative Town Meeting session where a petition seeking RTM support for stronger gun-control measures was being debated.

And, in an unrelated incident, a Wilton man was arrested last week and charged with creating a public disturbance and criminal trespass after an incident in a Town Hall office.

RTM Moderator Hadley Rose, District 3, said he supports inclusion of Town Hall in the security audit.

"I think it's a good idea," he said. "I'm in Town Hall all the time. After Newtown, when I walked in the Monday after that, a couple of people mentioned to me that they felt kind of vulnerable being in a public building. I can understand why Gordon [Joseloff] wanted it included in the process. If nothing else, it will put people's minds at ease."

Westport police officers are not assigned to monitor most Town Hall meetings. But the focus of Tuesday night's RTM meeting prompted Rose to contact Call to request a police presence at Town Hall -- one of only a handful of times that the RTM moderator has asked for police coverage at a meeting.

"I kind of do it on a selective basis," Rose said. "In general, I do it when I feel there's a potential for enough emotion that somebody might get carried away and it would help having another outside presence encouraging them to behave."

Rose praised the Police Department for resolving the BB gun incident without interrupting the RTM meeting. The weapon, brought to the meeting by 86-year-old Estelle Margolis, was discovered by RTM members Matthew Mandell and Sean Timmins, who reported it to police at the scene.

"I'm up on the stage, but until Gordon [Joseloff] made that comment about the incident, I had no idea that anything had happened," Rose said. "I thought the cops did a great job of keeping it as quiet as they did."

Rose added that he does not foresee having to request police presence at future RTM meetings very often.

pschott@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott