Columbia Public Works presented an update on measures to deter people from jumping off the parking garage at Fifth and Walnut streets during the City Council meeting Monday night. These measures include grated fences on almost every level.

The nine-story parking structure first opened in 2011, and seven people have committed suicide there. Columbia police talked a woman down from the top in March.

Public Works Director Dave Nichols showed the council several graphics illustrating options for installing one of three types of screens in almost every window of the garage. One option for the top level is to install a metal fence that curves inward to prevent people from climbing over it. Types two and three are grated fences.

The council voted in February to hire Walker Consultants to evaluate the garage and recommend solutions used in other garages around the country.

“There’s this idea of when a structure is used for self-harm purposes, that it can become idealized in that sense,” Ashlyn Sherman of the Public Works Department said in February. “We don’t want people to view it like that. We want to make it as safe as possible to deter any future incidents.”

The initial costs of the project, estimated at around $300,000, will be covered by the Parking Utility Columbia Public Works said in a memo there “may be a need to appropriate more money.”

Molly and Kelly Carter spoke at the meeting about their brother, who took his own life by jumping from the parking structure in August 2019.

Molly Carter suggested installing a phone at the top of the garage along with suicide prevention hotline phone numbers.

The council voted unanimously to move forward with construction.

  • General Assignment reporter, fall 2020 Studying magazine journalism and German Reach me at smszbp@umsystem.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700

  • Molly Hart is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. She has previously reported on state government. She can be reached at mhart@mail.missouri.edu.

  • I've been a reporter and editor at Missouri community newspapers for 35 years and joined the Columbia Missourian in 2003. My emphasis at the Missourian is on local government and elections. You can reach me at swaffords@missouri.edu or at 573-884-5366.

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