MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

September 29, 2013

Commission meetings move to new room

Basement chamber considered more secure

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— When county commissioners convene their regular meeting today, they will be in new digs in the basement of the courthouse annex.

The move is part of the commissioners’ efforts to step up security. The need for increased security was highlighted by a Homeland Security analysis performed a few years ago.

Commission Chairman Stephen Wright, District 2, said those original recommendations included relocating the board’s weekly meetings to the courthouse or installing bulletproof glass in the windows that provide a view of downtown Muskogee. Commissioners opted for the more convenient and less expensive alternative.

The commissioners’ move to the basement location in the Muskogee County Services Building cost taxpayers about $20,000 for renovations, which have taken place during the past month. Those included the construction of a dais with prominent seating for commissioners and enough seating on the left and right flanks for all county officers.

“This was more feasible and probably a little more secure than some of those other recommendations,” Wright said, noting that he is not one who favors a whole lot of change. “They talked about bulletproof glass, that but would have proved more expensive than what we’ve done.”

District 1 Commissioner Gene Wallace said other precautionary measures have been taken or are being planned to increase security at the courthouse complex. That includes the installation of more video surveillance cameras.

“It is a sad statement of current times that we have to do things differently than what we have done in the past,” Wallace said. “But being diligent is part of the new world we live in, so this is just one more step in protecting the taxpayers’ interests.”

District 3 Commissioner Dexter Payne said the basement space renovated for use by the board had been occupied by Muskogee County Exceptional Children’s Services. The space became available in June after the agency moved out.

The new basement board room, Payne said, will provide the necessary security without the inconvenience of moving the meetings to the courthouse. The basement is accessible by elevator or stairs, he said.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.