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Local News

Barry County Courthouse may get more security than first planned

Barry County Commissioners will take a closer look at proposed changes in the original plans to expand Barry County Courthouse security after hearing changes advocated by the circuit court judge and county deputy.

Bob Van Putten, architect/owner of Landmark Design Group was at Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting to explain the proposed changes. After the original floor plans went to the county commission, other security issues were discussed with Judge Amy McDowell, Deputy Gary Pearson and County Administrator Michael Brown with an eye to more improvements to courtroom security, Van Putten said.

 

Originally, plans called for a holding cell for each sex, separate halls to keep judges and prisoners apart and to relocate security screening and improve the lower level public entrance. The estimated construction cost was $300,000.

 

The revised plans add improved separation between prisoners, juries and judicial staff; limited access to judicial areas with a window between staff and public; an attorney/prisoner conference room; a private entrance to the judge’s bathroom; moving the jury box across the room, a new judge's bench and replacing the seats with benches. The cost for the revised plans is $456,000.

 

Commissioner Jon Smelker said they should go ahead with more security. “If we're going to have a courtroom, we need security…if we have a shooter, you’re giving up two people right now." Commissioner David Jackson said they should do the work now to get the benefit of planning so they don’t have to come back in five years and spend much more for what they can get now for $1,500 more. //

 

“The courthouse is a beautiful old building built in 1892, but they didn’t have the problems we have now…we’ve taken training in court security. It’s a reality now. We plan for the future to be prepared,” Pearson said.

 

Commissioner Jim Dull made a motion to make minimum improvements to just the circuit courtroom because the court may be moved into the Courts & Law building in the future. He withdrew his motion during discussion.

 

A new reconfigured parking space and storm water drainage system and decorative screen will cost an estimated $147,000; however the parking lot is not included in the initiative and is separately funded, Van Putten said. If the commission approves the revisions, he said they could do the preliminary work in a couple of months, and the circuit court would be relocated to the Community Room for three or four weeks while the improvements are being done.

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