CAUTION: the lobby is a loud & dusty construction zone. As you visit us, we apologize for the disruption and thank you for your patience!
If you have recently visited us in City Hall, you probably noticed our current construction! Lasting several months into next year, the lobby and surrounding entrances are getting a security makeover.
At the heart of this safety transformation is the redesigned and secured main entrance. When visitors enter the front doors and walk up the steps, they will be immediately greeted on their right at our new guest services window, fitted with secure glass, a natural voice port for clear communication, and a transaction tray. Here, residents can more quickly pay utility bills, ask questions, pick up or drop off forms, get Court Clerk assistance, or be directed to their desired destination.
This is a significant benefit for people who have never visited City Hall before; instead of searching individual offices for their needed department, visitors will be welcomed and guided by front desk staff. Quick exchanges with the City of De Soto will be easier than ever! Past the transaction window will be the new set of staff-accessible security doors that lead into the administration offices. Guests can easily gain access to their requested department after checking in with the front desk staff.
While the east and west entrances to the administrative offices will be only accessible by staff, providing a secured area for employees, the ground-level ADA entrance will continue to remain open. City Planning & Capital Projects Director Brad Weisenburger said, "what we don't want is City Hall to feel inaccessible, and it's our goal to make this an easy change for everyone. For our guests that need ADA accommodations, the elevator will still be available and take you to the first floor. As soon as you exit the lift, we added another secure transaction window with credit card machine; you'll just ring the doorbell and a front office staff member will come assist you."
Although these City Hall upgrades have been in progress since 2018, the necessity for increased security has been around much longer. City Clerk Lana McPherson said, "since we moved our admin offices to this building, which once housed a high school and then middle school, we have discussed the need for an expanded safety plan. First and foremost, it's about the safety of our employees, especially our frontline staff who work with the public each day. If there ever were an emergency, we want our employees to know they are protected and there is a system in place for them." Lana continued, "we are actually one of the last cities in Johnson County to implement a security system, with communities smaller than ours upgrading years ago. We will always have that small-community feeling and service at City Hall, but now we are providing that comfort of security to our employees as well."
When drafting the City Hall Facility Master Plan in 2018, which included the vision of a security system, staff had one main concern: safety of employees and visitors in the event of a threat. While the pandemic events of 2020 were not what we had in mind, the security renovations come at a much-needed time.
During April and May of this year, we were closed to the public due to COVID-19; our current infrastructure would not allow us to provide front desk staff and visitors a safe way to interact. While we still internally functioned as normal, residents were unable to freely come into to City Hall to pay their bills, visit the building department, or just ask questions in person. City Administrator Mike Brungardt said, "Now, we are ready and will be prepared. The new glass-separated transaction window will allow us to provide a hygienic and safe interaction for our staff and visitors. Instead of closing our doors, we will be able to continue to provide face-to-face service during a potentially similar shutdown; while not the original purpose, added hygiene safety is a cherry on top."