WEAVER – Less than 24 hours after an armed man entered City Hall last month, allegedly looking to “arrest” Weaver Mayor Wayne Willis, Willis told city officials they needed to upgrade security.
After a quick approval from the Weaver City Council, the city this week installed a new wall and glass windows shielding employees at the front desk, as well as an alarm system that alerts police to any possible emergency situations.
“The incident was kind of our welcome to the many public buildings that have had a dangerous threat,” Willis said Thursday while demonstrating the new alarm system. “It’s happening all over the country.”
Employees at Weaver City Hall are now equipped with their own alert buttons, which they can wear around their necks. The courtroom, city clerk’s and mayor’s offices, and the city’s senior center across the parking lot from City Hall also have their own emergency alert system, monitored by Weaver police.
“For me, all the concerns I had were alleviated,” said Jody Stephens, an employee with the city. “This made me feel a lot better.”
The upgrades cost around $3,000 altogether, with the alarm system from Birmingham-based Falcon Community Services costing about $2,100, and the new wall about $900.
The upgrades in security were inspired last month when Anniston resident Bobby Beck came to City Hall allegedly looking to arrest Willis, according to Weaver police. Beck, who allegedly brandished a pistol and handcuffs, told city employees he was an FBI agent and that he wanted to arrest the mayor for working part-time as mayor, which he said was against the law. Willis told The Star that when police later questioned Beck, the man said he was prepared to shoot the mayor if he would not leave with him.
Beck was later arrested and held at the Calhoun County Jail, but was later released on a $2,500 bond. He is still awaiting a court hearing on the case.
Willis said that while the incident involving Beck was bizarre, it’s not out of the ordinary for the city to receive threats or deal with angry residents. As the head of the small city, Willis said he’s often the target of that anger.
“There are just people out there who are really angry at the government,” Willis said. “Even in small-town America, there are people who are angry, and they want to confront you about it.”
The alarm system is about more than armed intruders or other residents looking to harm city employees, Willis said. The system installed at the senior center features a call box which can be used to alert the Police Department and request emergency vehicles.
“There have been times where we needed to call for an ambulance,” said Anna Warren, the director of the senior center. “So even if I’m not here, everyone knows this call box is here, and they can use it to get help.”