Crime & Public Safety

Update: Bluffton beefs up security at council meetings

A month after Skip Hoagland was forcibly removed from a Bluffton town council meeting, the town's police force is beefing up security at Town Hall.

The new procedures, which will be implemented at council meetings starting Wednesday, require attendees to form a line in front of the council chambers where they will be scanned for weapons by Bluffton Police Department officers wielding metal-detecting wands.

Bags, backpacks and purses will also be checked, department spokeswoman Joy Nelson said Tuesday.

When asked if the extra security is a result of last month's verbal showdown between Bluffton mayor Lisa Sulka and Hoagland, an outspoken critic of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and local government officials, Nelson said the "decision had absolutely nothing to do with one individual."

And while Hoagland said Tuesday "the timing is a little odd," he also doesn't think the new procedures are meant to target him specifically.

In fact, he said the extra security "isn't a bad idea."

Hoagland said he plans to speak again during the public comment session at Wednesday's council meeting and is fine with going through security first.

"There are a lot of nut cases and mentally ill people running around out there," Hoagland said. "If the police can help protect us from those folks, I'm all for it."

Nelson said adding the security measure to council meetings is something that the department has considered for some time.

"It's a different world we live in now," she said. "Almost every single night you turn on the television and see tragedies occurring in unlikely places."

Nelson acknowledges that there will be some who will be put off by the metal detectors and bag checks.

"But we aren't doing this to be a pain," she said. "We just want people to be safe."

Because the officers assigned to the council meetings are paid a salary, the extra security won't require a bump in the department's overtime budget, Nelson said.

Wednesday's meeting begins at 6 p.m.

Because it is hard to predict how long the security lines will be and how quickly they will move, it may be wise to arrive at Town Hall a few minutes early, Nelson said.

Follow reporter Lucas High on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Lucas.

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