State expected to spend at least $1 million to toughen security at the Capitol

By Don Thompson The Associated Press
Tuesday October 30, 2001

SACRAMENTO — California will spend more than $1.1 million to boost security at the state Capitol in the wake of last month’s terrorist attacks, legislators decided Monday. 

“Like it or not, the Capitol is a potential target,” said Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, chairman of the Joint Rules Committee that oversees security there. 

The state will spend $700,000 to install airport-style metal detectors and X-ray machines at four entrances to the building, eliminating public access at two additional existing entrances. The main and most ornate entrance to the Capitol will be reserved for tour groups. 

Officials said the new equipment will speed searches that have been conducted by hand since the Sept. 11 East Coast attacks, though it may be another two months before the machines are in place. 

In addition, an X-ray machine used to screen mail will be moved from its current location beneath the governor’s office to the California Highway Patrol Academy in West Sacramento, at a cost of $410,000. 

Legislators also are considering buying an irradiation machine that could kill anthrax and other bacteria in mail, but will first see what steps the U.S. Postal Service takes so as to avoid duplication, Cardoza said. 

Sixty large concrete flower planters already have been placed around the Capitol as a barrier to vehicles. The committee plans a public hearing Nov. 13 to consider whether they should be replaced by permanent metal posts or similar devices. 

The planters cost $10,000 to $15,000 but can be used at other state facilities if they’re not needed at the Capitol, said CHP Commissioner D.O. “Spike” Helmick. 

Cardoza estimated the state is spending $5,000 to $10,000 on other security measures, though some are as cheap and easy as locking previously unlocked doors.  

All told, the committee considered 25 precautions at its four-hour closed door meeting, the remainder of which were not made public for security reasons. 

“We don’t want to let the bad guys know what our points of vulnerability are,” Cardoza said. 

The security precautions were endorsed by Assembly members of the Joint Rules Committee, while Senate members still must be polled for their approval. 

Meanwhile, Helmick said the CHP has spent more than $17 million since Sept. 11 on increased security statewide, including more flights over aqueducts, power lines and patrols of bridges and dams. 

To pay the increased cost, Helmick said he is cutting back equipment, travel and training, though most training was postponed anyway because the officers are needed for the beefed up security patrols.