Security and police presence have been stepped up in recent weeks amid safety concerns at public meetings hosted by the City of Nanaimo and the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District.
Both the city and SD 68 are dealing with contentious local issues, and emotions have repeatedly flared up during the course of public hearings held by each public body.
The city is currently grappling with how to proceed on the lower and middle Colliery dams. Council voted to decommission the two structures in an in-camera meeting last October, but that move immediately prompted a grassroots campaign from residents outraged at the decision.
Hundreds have showed up to the Vancouver Island Shaw Auditorium for city meetings, and many have spoken to council on the topic. Several of the comments directed towards individual council and staff members have often been derogatory and hostile.
The rising temperature of the meetings was a cause for concern for Vancouver Island Conference Centre manager Denise Tacon and city staff. After discussions with the city, Tacon assigned an extra security guard to watch over the meetings whenever the Colliery dams comes up for discussion. "We have to be prepared. Nothing worse than saying we should have done so," Tacon added.
City manager Al Kenning said the city has at times requested additional security, a clarification from an earlier statement he had given to a city resident asking about security presence at council meetings. He apologized via email.
Nanaimo RCMP Sgt. Sheryl Armstrong said two plainclothes officers from the detachment attended at least two city council meetings back in June in case things got out of hand.
"In this particular case, there were threats made against certain councillors and stuff, so if those people are there, we have to ensure the safety of councillors," she said.
At the request of the school district, school liaison RCMP officers also attended three public meetings held on the new facilities plan, which proposes to close eight schools over the next 10 years, in part as a cost-saving measure.
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