LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Visitors who have been to Lufkin city Hall since the beginning of the year have had to learn a new route into the building.
"It is an inconvenience for people coming into city hall," Lufkin City Manager Keith Wright said. "It is especially hard for people from out of town that are coming to meetings and have never been here."
Since January, visitors have been forced to use a small back door by the drive through bill paying lanes. The main entrances into the building have been closed as construction crews worked on a major facelift in the atrium area.
"It all started with replacing the ceiling panels of the atrium," Wright said. "The atrium had some deterioration in the material that covered the aluminum framing. We could not find that material and we had multiple leaks."
The see through paneling is now gone and the ceiling has new state of the art LED lights.
"Not only do we have the ceiling lights but we also have a light fixture around the top ledge that can change colors," Wright said. "On holidays it can be different colors and we can even make it purple on the day of football games."
People walking into the atrium might have their eyes focused the new upgrades, but that attention will quickly move to several new security upgrades.
"The main city offices will now be behind secured doors," Wright said. "The only way in will be to check in with a receptionist. If you are someone here on a regular basis we will give you a visitor badge and send you on your way," Wright said. "If you are not familiar with the building will will page the department you are here for and they will send someone out to you."
The City Council Chamber also sits behind the secure area but Wright said that the main security doors will unlock before the meetings to help with the foot traffic into the meeting.
Wright and council also took people stopping by to pay bills into consideration.
"We do not want to cause an inconvenience for people who just need to pay a bill," Wright said. "That hallway will remain open so you don't have to check in. Now when it turns towards the administration wing back by the pay windows, we will have those doors locked and only people with access codes can get through them.
The Police Department that takes up a wing at city hall is also getting security upgrades.
"We thought about the police to in this," Wright said. "We need to think about their safety. We are putting up a similar desk near the front door that will allow you to call back and someone will come up and get you the help we need. We just need to be aware of the officers here also."
Wright said the changes are a sign of the times.
"I didn't think this would ever happen when I grew up," Wright said. "I have worked for the city for over 22 years and I never was concerned with any type of safety or security. With this day and age with the different type of agendas going on and the different groups that are out there, it's just something you have to look at. You have to be realistic."
Wright said the construction should be completed in the next week or two. He is also aware that there will be a brief learning time for everyone. Wright feels the new look will give a big boost to the building that has not seen a major upgrade since it was built.
"I think it adds more character to downtown particularly with the city logos on either end of the atrium," Wright said. "The interior looks good. It's a nice looking upgrade to the facility."