Citizens Dispute Opening Garage

Knoxville (WVLT) - Homeland security precautions are still in place at the City-County Building in Downtown Knoxville.

WVLT Volunteer TV's Gary Loe brings you the Public Building Authority's answers as to why the parking garage is open on Vol game days, but not open for the public to do business at City Hall.

New vehicle barriers are now going in at all entrances and exits of the City-County Building parking garage.

These large metal plates pop up electronically, blocking the roadway and stopping any vehicle from advancing.

"When they use their badge to raise the gate, these will go down, it'll sort of be like that," says Sgt. John Lasson from the Public Building Authority.

Critics complained that a piece of metal, and dozens of video cameras would not stop a terror attack. The garage remains closed to the public, open only to select government employees since 9/11.

"As soon as Sheriff Hutchison and Chief Owen assure us that we can open it safely to the public, then we'll do so," says Dwight Van de Vate, who sits on the Parking Garage Committee.

Critics say that if government leaders are serious about safeguarding the parking garage, it shouldn't be open to the public during the city's special events and Vol football games.

"When we open the garage for special events, we screen every single vehicle coming in to the garage for explosives," says Dale Smith from the Public Building Authority.

The public building authority's CEO says bomb dogs and mirror systems, similar to these used at Neyland Stadium after 9/11, are used to check each vehicle.

This extensive security check is expensive, paid for by costly parking revenues, it would set-back taxpayers about $400,000 a year if public parking is again allowed.

"The truth is, we don't know if the terrorists will next choose small town America," Smith says.

Officials say although it's unpopular to keep the garage closed, legal and financial responsibilities may keep it from reopening.

Knoxville City Council voted twice to reopen the garage, while Knox County Commissioners have delayed taking action each time the item comes before them.

A Parking Garage Committee plans to report its findings before a November deadline.