County Board favors adding deputy for better courthouse security
But supervisors don’t specifically call for single entry
BY KEVIN BONESKE
The Oneida County Board favors improving security at the courthouse with an additional sheriff’s deputy, but not necessarily limiting access to the building with a single entry.
Supervisors passed an amended resolution authorizing the sheriff’s department to apply for a federal Community Oriented Policing Services grant to be used for covering some of the costs of adding a sheriff’s deputy for courthouse security. The resolution’s wording was changed to take out references calling for a single entry to the courthouse staffed by the additional deputy.
In the event the county wouldn’t be awarded a grant, which sheriff Grady Hartman characterized as being a long shot to receive, the resolution still called for improving courthouse security with the
Buildings and Grounds Committee reviewing the matter.
“I think the proposal to go a single point of entry should hinge on its own merits,” Hartman said. “”I don’t think the grant should play a large factor in your guys’ decision for this.”
Hartman, who noted the additional deputy would be put in place for 2018, said the grant would pay 75 percent of wage and benefit costs of the deputy for the first three years with the county paying the entire cost in the fourth year and then deciding in the fifth year whether to continue the position.
“I’m not sure that we’ll get the grant,” he said. “I really don’t know.”
Supervisor Scott Holewinski said a lot of questions remain about having a single point of entry at the courthouse.
“I’m in favor of applying for the grant,” Holewinski said. “Maybe it would be better that we had a roaming deputy that would move around.”
Holewinski said the additional security at the courthouse shouldn’t be limited to a single point of entry.
“Discussing and looking at it, it’s going to be expensive to remodel for a single point of entry,” he said. “It’s not going to be an easy thing putting a cop by the door.”
Holewinski suggested looking into whether there would be a better way to improve courthouse security than with the expenses involved with building improvements to have a single entrance.
“Plus (with) the inconvenience that it will cause for employees and people entering the courthouse, do we really need that (single point of entry), or do we improve (security) in a different way?” Holewinski asked.
To apply for the grant, Hartman said it wouldn’t be necessary for the courthouse to go to a single point of entry, for which he noted “a lot of nuts and bolts would have to be worked out amongst a number of committees, which we haven’t done yet.”
Along with the courthouse now being accessible to the public from more than one entrance, no screening for contraband or weapons is currently taking place upon entering the building.
If the county went to a single point of entry for the courthouse, Hartman said he wouldn’t envision going to pat-down searches unless people being screened would set off some type of metal detector.
“I don’t think the timeliness of getting people patted down and in (the courthouse) is feasible,” he said.
County corporation counsel Brian Desmond said where the courtrooms are, statistically, is where most of the incidents of violence on county grounds will occur.
“There have been instances across the country where county board rooms, committee rooms, have problems, too, and I think most of those committee meetings occur here (at the courthouse), also, statistically speaking,” Desmond said.
Supervisor Billy Fried, who chairs the Buildings and Grounds Committee, said improving security at the courthouse could involve developing policy, looking at what other counties are doing, etc.
“If we come back to a single point of entry and do it right, it may be a six-figure project coming back to this county,” Fried said.
According to the fiscal impact statement included with the resolution, the annual cost to add a deputy at the courthouse, based on 2017 wage and health insurance rates, would be at least $82,062, with grant funding covering $61,547 and the county’s share coming to $20,516.
Additional expenditures, such as for putting a single point of entry in place at the courthouse, are not included in the fiscal impact statement.