ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- Maintaining a fence protecting the state capitol building since protests following George Floyd's death last summer cost taxpayers more than $200,000, state contracts show.
A new fence installed last month to replace another, less secure fence accounts for half of those charges, though it will be installed for a fraction of the total time the chain-linked barricade is expected to be there.
Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said Monday that the new fence covers the same ground as the old fence, but is more secure.
"It's got the exact same footprint as the previous fence did," he said during a public safety briefing for security surrounding the Derek Chauvin trial. "That fence was put up rather hastily in May of last year and we recognize that structurally we could do a better job."
Harrington did not say when the fence would be removed, but said it is not the plan to keep it permanently. The state's purchase order for the new fence shows it will remain for at least another four months.
It cost more than $68,000 to install and its monthly rental fee is more than $12,000 per month for four months, putting the total price tag at more than $116,000. The Department of Administration signed the agreement in March.
The old fence, which surrounded the capitol for about 10 months after law enforcement put it up to protect the building in wake of protests and unrest following Floyd's death, cost less to install and less per month than the new one, state documents show.
The total cost between rent and other fees before it was taken down was more than $107,000. The rental fee was $274 per day.
As law enforcement stands ready during Chauvin's trial, including state troopers who monitor capitol grounds, Harrington said the fence frees up police resources.
"With the fencing securing these properties, it requires less police personnel to be on guard and to be on duty, allowing more officers to be available [and] to be responsive to the needs of the community," he said.
There is no "imminent threat" to court proceedings or Minneapolis and St. Paul right now, the state's top law enforcement official said, but the move to install a better barrier is "out of an abundance of caution."
There were more than 100 protests on capitol grounds last year, Harrington has told lawmakers, including one that toppled the Christopher Columbus statue just outside the fencing. As of late January, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension had tracked 88 potential threats of violence.
"We continue to work with the Department of Administration, assessing threats on a monthly basis," Harrington said. "And once we no longer have any threats, we will then make that recommendation [to take the fence down]. We hope to see the fence come down as soon as possible."
There is also new fencing around the St. Paul police headquarters and some additional precincts, similar to security parameters in Minneapolis, where Chauvin's trial is underway at the Hennepin County Government Center.
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