Support growing for construction of 8-foot fence around Georgia Capitol

ATLANTA — The plan to add an 8-foot steel fence around the state Capitol, as the centerpiece of a new $5 million dollar security upgrade, is suddenly drawing a lot less criticism after the ugly attack on the U.S. Capitol last week.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher broke the story of the planned Capitol fence in October, and response was swift -- most of it negative.

“We were hit pretty hard on social media and some of the commentaries on there, but lot of people have actually rescinded their comments on that,” says Gerald Pilgrim, the deputy director of the Georgia Building Authority, which is overseeing the project.

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Governor Brian Kemp, the GBA and the Board of Public Safety, which oversees the GBI and Georgia State Patrol, approved the plan last fall.

Belcher toured the construction site with Pilgrim and architect Hank Houser on a morning when workers were pouring concrete on the west side of the building along Washington Avenue.

Houser pointed to the hefty 3-foot wide foundation that will remain mostly below ground and out of site. It will provide the primary support for the 8-foot by 20-foot sections of steeling fence.

Some of it is all about heft. But other sections require a bit more finesse to install a support system for the fence, without cutting through roots of prized old trees on the Capitol grounds.

“These are screws that go down into the ground 30 to 40 to 50 feet, and the intention is to avoid excavating the roots of this big tree,” Houser explained.

Houser says the project will have a major gate on each of the Capitol’s four sides and is designed to look welcoming to the public when the building is open. Aesthetics are important, but the fence is first of all about security.

Houser says it’s not impenetrable, but “you and I won’t be able to push it over. There’s an enormous amount of concrete below ground that will be resisting overturning of the fence. It will be very robust.”

And if someone were to ram a vehicle into it?

“It’ll take a lot to get through,” Houser told Belcher.

Pilgrim says the fence “is not a political statement. This is to make sure that we protect the asset of the State of Georgia. We take that seriously. This summer we saw the need, and so we’re glad we’re started. We just wish we could build it faster.”

Pilgrim tells Channel 2 Action News the fence and all four gates should be installed by May.

The State Patrol, which oversees security at the Capitol, told Channel 2′s Belcher last fall that the fence will not limit public access to the building during normal hours when the Capitol is open.

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