ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News has learned the State Capitol is about take on a dramatically new look – an 8-foot steel security fence will surround the 131-year old building that sits on a commanding height on the southside of downtown.
The Georgia Building Authority and the State Public Safety Board have both approved the deal, and we’re told the fence is part of a $5 million package of security upgrades at the Capitol, the Governor’s Mansion in Buckhead and Georgia State Patrol headquarters in southeast Atlanta.
The fence will allow the Georgia Army National Guard to withdraw some of the two dozen or so troops who have been assisting with nighttime security at the Capitol. The Capitol and surrounding buildings are also protected by state troopers and Capitol police.
GSP Captain Jim Wicker heads the 42-officer contingent.
“It will give us a long-term solution where the guard was a short-term solution for us. Hopefully this fence will eliminate the use for the guard,” he told Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Richard Belcher.
The Capitol has been the scene of intense protests since late May. Plus, in October of 2019, a man police say was high on cocaine broke into the Capitol and damaged lights, windows and the portraits of two former Georgia governors.
“That certainly showed that the building was vulnerable, so we’ve been working ever since then to implement security measures that would eliminate any kind of break-ins or further damage to the building itself,” Wicker said.
Wicker says grounds crews from the building authority are already doing preliminary work around the perimeter of the square block lot that houses the Capitol. Because the fence will be secured in concrete, he says some outside lights and some underground electrical cables will have to be moved.
Two sample panels measuring about 5-6 feet wide and 8 feet high are already along the sidewalk on the southside of the Capitol. They look very similar at first glance, but the spacing between the bars is narrower on one panel and wider on the other. The spikes on top of the two panels are also slightly different, though both look like they would repel anything short of a highly skilled effort to breach the wall. Both panels are dark gray or black, but we’re told a lighter color is also under consideration.
When Belcher asked how it will impact the thousands of people – members of the public, legislators and other elected officials and state employees – who use the building regularly, Wicker said, “I don’t think it will mean much at all (to them). We are still going to be open for business same hours, employees the same.”
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