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Construction of House security system runs 52% over budget

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Construction of the new security system in the Arizona House of Representatives, which includes metal detectors, gun lockers and a Kevlar wall, cost taxpayers significantly more than expected.

Former House Speaker David Gowan authorized the new security measures in response to “the global increase in attacks on public venues,” arguing that the new construction would ensure the safety of the lawmakers and visitors in the House.

But the House’s new beefed-up security apparatus, which was completed just before Gowan left office in January, came in at more than 52 percent over budget – or $442,000 for a project originally estimated to cost $290,000. Gowan later revised the projected costs to $302,000, but the project still came in way over budget.

Now there are questions of whether the apparatus, including the metal detectors, should even stay. The House Administration Committee, which current House Speaker J.D. Mesnard created to make recommendations on major House spending projects, has discussed whether keeping the beefed-up security apparatus makes sense.

During discussion, House Speaker Pro Tempore T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, who chairs the Administration Committee, noted that the security system is easily bypassed, as visitors to the House enter through opened exit doors. The committee has not made a decision on whether to keep or modify the new security equipment.

That prompted House security to try a few different approaches, including closing one of the metal detectors, and attempting to funnel all visitors without badges through a single entrance.

“This whole session has been an experiment in what works best,” Shope said.

And while the fate of Gowan’s security system is still up in the air, Shope said he was not surprised that the project came in above budget.

“I don’t know a single government project that’s ever come in under budget,” he said.

Even just the construction in the House lobby, provided by SD Crane Builders, came in almost $53,000 over the projected budget, and several other unforeseen costs popped up as the project progressed. The chamber added cameras and an access control system to the project, to the tune of nearly $55,000.

And other unforeseen costs emerged up as the project progressed, including a not-budgeted $16,000 for the chamber’s new security front work station. The chamber spent an additional $7,000 on unforeseen costs relating to the security door construction. Pistol lockers and new security radios, which weren’t originally budgeted, cost another $4,000.

And the chamber spent nearly $5,000 for previously unbudgeted security monitor mounts and vinyl lettering for the chamber’s doors.

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