Court security still an issue at county building

October 25, 2013

By Rosemary Horvath

A recent armed bank robbery and school lockdown in Harrison brought the issue of security at the Clare County government and courts building to the forefront Oct. 16.

Clare/Gladwin Probate Judge Marcy Klaus appealed to county commissioners to avoid being “committeed to death” dwelling on the issue of courthouse security.

“Simpler is better,” she said, requesting the board institute “a simple plan to make the courthouse secure.”

Klaus prefers to see a five-minute protocol than one five pages long.

Currently, the section of the County Building housing courts and legal offices is flanked by three entrances. Stationed in the lobby is a desk manned by security officers from the sheriff’s department.

Stored against a wall is a metal detector commissioners said is operational but not used.

Commissioner Rick LaBoda, previously district court magistrate, recalled a time when the machine had been fully implemented and said it can be used again. “Make (people) walk through it. At least you would know they didn’t have a weapon.”

Klaus said commissioners may be unaware of “the touchy situations that take place in our courtroom.” Courts personnel deal with custody cases and other emotional issues are concerned about their safety at times, she said.

Commissioners have developed a plan for a lockdown although spreading an alert throughout the building has been an issue. Commissioner Lynn Grim advised having practice drills.

The county had a lockdown on the day of the bank robbery but word hadn’t reached the administrator’s office or commission chamber, Grim noted.

Commissioner Leonard Strouse is one hundred percent in favor of security at the courts end, he said, but may not favor closing some entrances. He’s heard from constituents who want the county building to be open.

At the same meeting, the county’s information technology specialist, Jim Neff, aided by Rob Stout of Trivalent Group, the county’s business technology solutions provider, informed the board of network problems and security issues.

For an immediate cure, commissioners authorized spending up to $11,000 on equipment to correct functions and flows of servers. Because Neff’s budget doesn’t account for the expense, the amount will be deducted from the contingency fund.

This will only be an immediate solution. “There are lots of things we can do to make things better,” Neff said.

The county has not budgeted funding to maintain or update technology used by every county department. When the server goes down, multiple departments are impacted, Neff added.

Stout recommended hiring a part-time person to free up Neff so he can concentrate on the bigger problems. County Clerk Pam Mayfield said the technology committee composed of department heads will review options.

Sheriff John Wilson explained his department which makes up 60 percent of the I.T. system ought to have an I.T. person on staff. “I need that physical person,” said Wilson, who came in on his day off to repair the system when it shut down.
The department needs to have a mobile network and virtual network. The department has taken over the operation of emergency dispatch center and is responsible when it goes down.

Neff and Wilson are the only two county employees with I.T. training. Wilson and Neff can split the cost of a full-time I.T. person, Wilson said.

Mayfield offered to be included as her department needs to have immediate solutions as well and someone experienced to set up more I.T. projects.

Neff said the county needs a control coordinator rather than have each department.

Trivalent is working up cost estimates if it were to monitor the sheriff’s department around the clock with remote repair.

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