Michigan Gov. Whitmer's residence gets security upgrade as part of $1.1M maintenance

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The state-owned Michigan governor's residence is getting security upgrades, including the construction of a new perimeter fence, after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in May there had been an "explosion" in violent threats against her.

The "perimeter security and other safety upgrades" are under way and were planned out last year, Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said Friday. They were scheduled to start in the early spring but were delayed until recently because of the pandemic, she said.

"Routine maintenance and upgrades are performed as needed to ensure the safety, security and protection of any sitting governor and the first family," Brown said.

A sign warns passers-by of danger as construction takes place on a fence around the Michigan governor's residence on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020.

The cost for the "current maintenance" at the Lansing residence, which was recommended by the Michigan State Police and the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget, is about $1.1 million, Brown said. It's being paid for with funds from the executive office budget, she added.

It's unclear how much is being spent on the perimeter fencing that's being installed.

Whitmer, a Democrat who was first elected in 2018, has been the subject of menacing messages at Capitol demonstrations against her past COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. One sign at an event in April said, "Tyrants get the rope."

In May, a Detroit man was charged with a felony after allegedly making "credible threats to kill" Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel. During a May 26 press conference, Whitmer said there had been an "explosion of rampant rumors and violent death threats against my family and me online."

In recent weeks, crews have been working to build what appears to be an eight-foot-tall fence around the governor's residence property. Last week, a sign on the site where crews were on the job warned, "Danger. High voltage. Unauthorized persons keep out."

"As a matter of practice, we’re constantly reviewing security protocols and adjusting as needed," said Shanon Banner, spokeswoman for the Michigan State Police. "We don’t comment on specific threats against the governor nor do we provide information about security measures."

The Detroit News first asked about the project last week without receiving a response from the governor's staff. The News asked again Friday morning, and the governor's staff provided information about the upgrades at about 6 p.m.

On April 23, dozens of people gathered outside the residence to protest restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19. There have also been multiple protests against police brutality at Lansing Mayor Andy Schor's home, which is nearby. Demonstrators have marched to Schor's home and demanded that he enact law enforcement reforms or resign, according to the Lansing State Journal.

A security fence has been under construction along the Michigan governor's residence in recent weeks. The construction comes after protesters gathered at the property earlier this year and online threats were levied against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The governor's residence in Lansing is a few miles away from the Michigan Capitol. The residence was built in 1957 and donated to the state in 1969.

Former Gov. Rick Snyder, whose eight years in office ended in 2018, didn't live in the residence. But his home in Ann Arbor received Michigan State Police protection and security upgrades.

The governor's residence has undergone renovations under past governors.

Last month, South Dakota officials revealed plans to build a $400,000 fence around the residence of Gov. Kristi Noem, CBS News reported.