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Under a new visitor management system, those visiting the Carroll County government building will wear name badges, and their identification will be scanned and saved to the county server for 30 days from the day of collection.

The Board of Commissioners on Thursday approved the new system after, in August, authorizing the Department of Public Works to expend $5,000 for the project. A security team consisting of several county departments, including Information Technology, Public Safety, Risk Management, Public Works and the Sheriff’s Office, was formed months ago to assess the security of the county office building. As part of this, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security walked through the facility at 225 N. Center St. and offered suggestions for improvement, after which the commissioners approved a new visitor system and replaced building security officers with sheriff’s deputies.

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Jason Green, deputy director of Public Works, said in August the security team was formed due to “recent news events” across the country, but there were no incidents at the county office building that prompted the team’s formation.

The new system is expected to be implemented in a few weeks, according to communications manager Chris Winebrenner. County staff are preparing a video tutorial to help the public understand the new system and will issue a news release closer to the start date, Winebrenner wrote in an email.

Currently, visitors to the county office building sign in at the front desk by presenting identification and then receive a numbered visitor badge to wear while in the building. When people leave, they return the badge to the front desk. Since Jan. 22, visitors have been required to present photo identification such as a driver’s license, a state identification card, a passport, or a government, military or student ID, according to a county news release. Young children are exempt from the process, the release states.

Under the new system, a visitor’s photo ID, such as a driver’s license, will be scanned and its information will be retained on the county server, which is protected by a firewall, according to Sixton Kadel of the IT department. The visitor will then receive a printed badge displaying their name, date and time of visit, as well as the department they plan to visit within the building. The only personal information on the badge will be the individual’s name. Kadel said it will take about one minute to scan the ID and print a badge.

“The badge will provide staff information to verify visitors are authorized to be in the building and in a specific location,” Green said Thursday. “By displaying the name on the visitor badge it will allow staff to interact with each individual on a more professional, personal level.”

Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said the purpose of the new system is not to collect personal information like “Big Brother watching,” it’s about keeping people safe.

“We want to ensure access as easily as possible while maintaining the appropriate security," Rothstein said.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 1, recommended the board establish a policy on who can access the information and when. Currently, the police, deputy directors of Public Works, and Human Resources staff have access to the server where the information would be stored, according to Green.

Green told the commissioners Thursday he found that other jurisdictions with visitor management systems save visitors’ information between 90 days and one year, but the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office deemed 30 days as sufficient.

After 30 days, information will be deleted from the county server. Police will be able to access the information and retain it for longer than 30 days if there is an emergency. Delayed reporting sometimes occurs in cases of theft or vandalism, and investigations might require police to access older information, Green said. A deputy of the sheriff’s office rose from the audience Thursday to confirm these statements.

“The type of data that we collect and keep in our system is important, as it will allow the law enforcement, in case there is an incident here at the county office building, they can quickly download this information and determine who was in the building at the time of the incident,” Green said.

Kadel said they planned to print badges as stickers, but Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, and Rothstein suggested the badges be worn in plastic sleeves and clipped to a visitor’s clothing. Wantz said stickers could fall off easily, and Rothstein said a badge clip could be returned as visitors exit, while with stickers, visitors might be more likely to leave and forget they’re still wearing it.

Upon viewing the badge template, Frazier recommended the date and time be enlarged so it can easily be seen. He recalled his days as a teacher when students would attempt to reuse old sick passes and said he wouldn’t want a similar situation to occur at the county building.

Rezoning up for approval

In other business, the commissioners received an 85-page packet from the Department of Planning summarizing comments received from the public on the comprehensive rezoning proposal.

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The Department of Planning has been working with several other county departments to update the county’s zoning since February 2015, and the proposed changes include redistricting industrial and commercial areas. The county held two public hearings Oct. 3 to receive comments on the proposal and kept the record open for 10 days after the hearings.

Planning Director Lynda Eisenberg presented the comments in written form to the commissioners Thursday. They have the next few weeks to review them and plan to discuss the comments at the Oct. 31 board meeting, according to Eisenberg. Now that the public comment period is closed, the commissioners may adopt the comprehensive rezoning.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, suggested inviting the stakeholders who made comments to the Oct. 31 meeting. County Administrator Roberta Windham advised that to do so would subvert the public hearings and could get the county into “legal hot water” if they were to allow for more public comment and not duly advertise it as such. She recommended the commissioners individually reach out to stakeholders, if they would like. Wantz said that to have more public comment would be like doing the public hearings over again.

At Thursday’s meeting, Eisenberg told the commissioners there were no comments that referred to an issue that wasn’t already considered by the commissioners leading up to the hearings.

The comments can be reviewed on the county website on the planning department’s page under the comprehensive rezoning tab.

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