County visitors now screened

January 29, 2015

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By Rosemary Horvath
Correspondent

As of Jan. 26, anyone arriving for court hearings or visiting offices in the court wing of the County Building in Harrison walked through a metal detector.

Following several years of resistance, the Board of Commissioners on Jan. 20 agreed with personnel and adopted a security plan prohibiting weapons of any kind within the court wing.

The entrance facing South Broad Street at the east end of the wing near the courts, prosecutor and friend of the court offices is now locked as is the south door facing the parking lot.

The only open public entrances are the south, north and west doors.

Lori Ware, director of Community Development, Sheriff John Wilson and Undersheriff Dwayne Miedzianowski advocated for the plan and reiterated concerns legal professionals headquartered in the building have relayed in the past only to hear a majority of commissioners say the building is a public place and should remain open to the public.

The County Building is now divided in half. The west side of the building with offices conducting county business daily will not have visitors walk through a weapons screening, at least not presently.

This is a good compromise, Ware said, adding, “It shows the public and employees we are doing something for them.She stressed commissioners have an obligation to protect their employees.

Miedzianowski said the sheriff’s office is experienced at staging security plans in school buildings. Wilson added that if the plan doesn’t suit everyone, it can be changed “but we’ve got to do something to start.”

Board Chairman Jack Kleinhardt admitted he once opposed security and has come around to recognizing the necessity. He added that most county employees as well as commissioners will use the main south entrance off the parking lot without walking through the metal detector.

County officials will discuss replacing identification cards for employees at a cost of nearly $2500, and whether to include photos.

Following a lengthy discussion, Commissioner Leonard Strouse moved to begin the security process immediately and said he favored the plan “because it doesn’t disturb the public.”

Commissioner Dale Majewski seconded the motion passed unanimously. Majewski said he has always favored having courthouse security.

The group will report cost involved in securing the premises at the next board meeting.

Regarding another project that also has years of history, the county board unanimously adopted an energy study drafted by the building department.Despite what steps were implemented to improve heating and cooling and stop roof leaks over recent years, nothing seemed to last. The problem has been ongoing since the addition of the second storey wing was built, Ware said.

County officials had contemplated contracting with a private company to assess energy efficiency in the building. Rather than pay that firm, last year Ware received approval to have her staff conduct a study.

Ware and building official Mark Fitzpatrick outlined a plan to rectify problems in order to protect the county’s investment in the building.

Following another long discussion, Commissioner Karen Lipovsky moved to go ahead with the entire plan, install computerized controls and LED lighting throughout the County Building. Second was made by Commissioner Jim Gelios.

Cost will likely exceed $200,000. A loan will be made from the delinquent tax fund to be repaid over time with interest.

County Treasurer Jenny Beemer Fritzinger said the loan is doable so long as there is a contract listing details.

County Administrator Tracy Byard predicted energy efficiency will have a huge impact on savings to help pay the cost.

Meanwhile, Ware will apply for rebates and grants.

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