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Commissioners discuss new security measures at courthouse

Published 4:24pm Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Commissioners discussed on Monday plans to implement new security measures at the Chilton County Courthouse.

The discussion came after commissioners voted during the July 14 commission meeting to authorize Commission Chairman Allen Caton to appoint a committee to investigate security issues at the courthouse.

Commissioners also authorized Caton to spend up to $15,000 to start implementing the plans.

Caton told commissioners on Monday he wanted to discuss with them what he found during his research to make sure the new plans were something everyone wanted.

Caton said he met with local officials including judges, the circuit court clerk and probate judge to talk about different ideas for how to increase security.

“We kind of sat and hashed around some stuff,” Caton said. “The biggest thing everyone wants is the front door of the courthouse secure. They want scanning machines and metal detectors at the front door. I sat down and did some sketching and got a price from Independent Glass.”

Caton explained that the six current glass doors leading to the front entrance of the courthouse would be removed, and the front entrance to the courthouse would be extended to the two outdoor columns.

“We would create an entrance area where people would come in the entrance door, lay stuff on a scan machine, go through a scanner and metal detector and pick up their items on the other side of the metal detector,” Caton said. “People could then go either upstairs or downstairs.”

Commissioner Joseph Parnell asked how many individuals it would take to man the entrance to the courthouse.

Shane Mayfield with the Chilton County Sheriff’s Department spoke and said the front glass enclosure needed to serve as the first line of defense with individuals equipped to handle different situations that might arise.

“That front portion would need to be a priority of being manned with people who know how to handle different situations,” Mayfield said. “You can’t take people away from that door. That door is a defense point.”

Mayfield told commissioners the biggest complaint he could see from people was having to wait in a line outside before being allowed to go into the courthouse.

“People are going to complain if they are standing out in the rain,” Mayfield said. “Unfortunately, it is the world we live in today. We don’t want anything to happen on our watch, and we can address and defeat it beforehand. You need someone manning those doors who can take action when the need arises.”

Commissioner Joe Headley said whoever was going to man the doors needed to go ahead and be allowed to man them while the glass enclosure was being installed.

“I think we need to put someone at those doors now to let people get used to what is going on,” Headley said. “Give people time to get used to being searched when they walk in the courthouse.”

Commissioner Shannon Welch made a motion to approve roughly $14,000 taken out of the Capital Improvement Fund for the glass portion at the front of the courthouse to be installed.

Caton said it should take about three weeks to have the work completed.

Parnell expressed concerns with funding individuals to man security at the front doors.

“We have to have people who are capable of defending the people in the courthouse,” Parnell said. “My biggest concern is how are we going to pay these people?”

Welch said until the individuals could begin work in manning the doors, the courthouse was “vulnerable.”

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable walking out of here tonight and us not taking any action on figuring out who is going to man the front doors,” Welch said.

Parnell made a motion for the commission to authorize Parnell and Caton to come up with a plan at the earliest possible time to make an emergency hire for personnel to man the front doors until the end of the current fiscal year (September 30).

Everyone voted in favor.

Parnell explained that the vote was simply a “Band-Aid” until commissioners could come up with a plan for budgeting money for the personnel in the upcoming fiscal year.

“We can spend time talking with private security firms or weigh the cost of hiring people through the sheriff’s department,” Parnell said. “We will make a short-term hire that will take us to the end of the current fiscal year. During that time, it will allow us to make a better, more educated decision for how we want to move forward for next year.”

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