County Considering Ramifications of Creating One Secured Entrance at Courthouse

The Monroe County Commissioners are setting out to make the courthouse more secure, and the first steps were taken to do so during their Aug. 25 regular session meeting. In recent weeks, several executive sessions have been held between commissioners, Sheriff Charles Black Jr.,  Prosecuting Attorney James Peters, Common Pleas Judge Julie Selmon, County Court Judge Jim Peters, and Juvenile and Probate Judge Clifford Sickler in regards to courthouse security. Now, commissioners have enrolled the help of David Haught of DLH Design to discuss the possibility of completing a feasibility study about creating a single secure entrance.

According to the conversation with Haught, commissioners are considering the possibilities of closing all courthouse entrances except for one to the public. That entrance would then be guarded during business hours, and courthouse visitors would be required to enter through a metal detector. Such a measure would put the Monroe County Courthouse security on par with Belmont and Jefferson counties. Currently Noble and Washington counties have a similar set-up as Monroe with no secured entrance.

Haught told commissioners he has guided such changes in other courthouses but that Monroe County has a unique set-up. “You have an interesting situation with the number of public entrances you have here,” Haught said.

Haught said the following things must be determined before initiating such a project: 1. The primary entrance must be designated, 2. The type of security station to install must be decided upon, 3. The public must be educated on what changes are being made and why, and 4. It must be determined who must enter through the secured entrance and whether or not a separate key-card entrance will be open to courthouse employees.

Commissioner John Pyles commented that he is hoping for “the most economical solution with the nicest appearance.” Commissioners and Haught toured the courthouse to determine the possibilities. 

Certain security measures are already in place at the courthouse, including security cameras and undisclosed measures. However, it is believed that adding a secured entrance and closing all other public entrances would be a much-needed final security step.

In other business, commissioners met with Denise Potts of Monroe County Public Transportation (MCPT) to discuss the organization’s 2015 grant. MCPT is in line to receive $171,940 in federal funding, $30,652 in state funding, $11,360 in capitalized maintenance funding, $55,964 in capital funding for a total of $269,916. Potts also reported that MCPT has a total of $151,000 in contracts and makes around $15,000 in fares each year.

Potts said the previous Ormet route had been deviated to Bellaire to transport juvenile offenders attending school there. She said the deviation could be eliminated and the route could be re-established if a new business enters the former Ormet facility.

After the report from Potts, commissioners passed a motion to authorize submission of the grant proposal.

Also meeting with commissioners was Jeanette Harter of the Monroe County Department of Job and Family Services (JFS). Harter reported that JFS will be contributing $5,000 of Title 20 funding to help fund a new anti-drug program coming to Switzerland of Ohio schools this year. She also reported that a total of $363,000 in TANIF dollars will be spent on clothing and school supplies as well as household items for qualified people.

Harter told commissioners her office had received “a couple” of reports of fraud. She said the gas cards program has been discontinued because several people reportedly tried to sell their cards for less than face value. She also said two people have been sanctioned for life from receiving JFS benefits. “There’s always going to be that abuse [of the system], but we always follow-up on complaints,” Harter said.

The commissioners will meet next on Sept. 2 at 9 a.m. in the meeting room located on the third floor of the Monroe County Courthouse.