Southampton Town this week started posting an armed security guard outside town board meetings.
The guard -- in a suit jacket and sitting at a desk outside the meeting room on Tuesday -- is part of an effort to update security at Town Hall, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said.
The town board on Tuesday also required residents, for the first time, to fill out cards if they wanted to speak at the meeting.
The changes come after the town installed panic buttons in some offices this year that can alert Southampton Village police, she said.
Throne-Holst said some employees have expressed concerns about security after the town's justice court -- and the court officers stationed there -- moved from the Town Hall basement to a new building in 2010.
"There has been a feeling amongst a number of employees . . . that since the court moved out and the court officers are no longer there, the sense of security is lessened," she said. "There are few town boards today that don't have some level of security, and where people don't have to sign in and identify themselves and things of that sort."
The sign-in procedure is intended to help the town clerk maintain an accurate public record of who speaks at the meetings, Throne-Holst said.
Board members a month ago hired Summit Security Services Inc. of Uniondale to provide the guard at meetings at a rate of $37.33 per hour, she said.
Throne-Holst said the guard was not hired to deal with disruptions, but said the board could call the guard into a meeting in "situations where we perceive a threat" or "if there's some level of unruliness that is disruptive both to security and to the people's business being conducted."
Two Southampton Town police officers stood watch over a meeting last month at which the town board approved a housing development in Tuckahoe over neighbors' protests. At one point, Throne-Holst asked the officers to remove Frances Genovese, who was arguing with the supervisor, but Genovese agreed to stop.
"I think it's completely unnecessary," Genovese, 76, of Tuckahoe, said yesterday of Throne-Holst's decision to hire a guard.
Also last month, a speaker reciting a Buddhist prayer went well beyond the board's three-minute limit for comments and ignored Throne-Holst's requests to stop. He argued with the supervisor, saying he was "going to finish without your permission," before leaving.