Upstairs, the reception desk at County Executive Ken Ulman's third-floor office suite has been moved outside the old wooden swinging doors, which are equipped with new security locks. A county police officer, who also drives Ulman to many appointments in an unmarked county police car, is stationed at the reception desk when the executive is in the office. The security upgrades to the buildings will cost about $100,000, according to Ulman spokesman Kevin Enright.
Ulman said security is one reason he has a police driver, though he often drives himself to appearances using his county-owned hybrid vehicle.
If there is an emergency, having a police driver and car can be important, partly because of the communications gear on board, Ulman said.
Ulman said all the changes grew from a security study commissioned by former County Executive James N. Robey.
"We're one of the only seats of government that [didn't] have security measures," Ulman said. Before the changes, county employees occasionally had been confronted with disgruntled residents or former workers who wandered through the county buildings. At night, the custodial staff is alone in the buildings.
"We've had people who have refused to leave despite displaying inappropriate behavior," Ulman said. He's heard no complaints about the new arrangements, he added.
The County Council is watching the situation, said Ball, the chairman and an east Columbia Democrat. The security guards at the George Howard Building's front doors help protect the council too, he said.