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Local News

Barry County Courthouse security improvements sent back to the drawing board

Barry County Commissioners will get new cost estimates, time lines and drawings for security improvements at the Barry County Courthouse.

 

Bob Van Putten, architect/owner of Landmark Design Group was at the July 19  committee of the whole meeting to offer commissioners changes to consider. After discussion and questions, the commission decided to defer work on the entrance area; the new parking lot, storm drainage system, canopy and decorative screen wall, that would save $147,000.

 

The estimates and drawings will include increased security inside the first floor, the second floor and the circuit courtroom, and be ready by next week.  Beckering Construction will provide estimates for two separate holding cells; one each for men and women; separate halls for court staff and prisoners, limiting public access to the judicial area, installing a window between court staff and the public, adding a prisoner/attorney conference room and a private entry to the judicial bathroom.

 

Commissioners are also considering county building and grounds employees doing some of the inside courtroom work; moving the jury box to the other side of the room, installing a new judge’s bench, replacing existing seats with benches, and moving witness, clerk and jury areas to meet Michigan Courthouse Planning Standards and barrier free accessibility.  Building and Grounds Director Tim Neeb will supply those figures. //

 

Original plans called for two holding cells, one each for men and women; separate halls so court staff and prisoners do not share a walkway, relocating screening and improvements to the lower level entrance for a total cost of $300,000.

 

On July 5, Van Putten offered revisions to the second floor and circuit courtroom plans to increase security after months of discussions with Judge Amy McDowell, Barry County Deputy Gary Pearson, and County Administrator Michael Brown.

 

The revised plans included limiting public access to the judicial area, installing a window between court staff and the public; adding a prisoner/attorney conference room and providing private access to the judicial bathroom more separation of prisoner, jury and court staff by installing a new judge's bench, replacing the seats with benches and other smaller changes that would increase the price to $456,000.

 

Some commissioners wanted to go ahead on July 5 with the expanded plan; others did not. They moved the issue to this week for more study.

 

Also Tuesday, the commission appointed Commissioner Vivian Conner as Officer Delegate and Commissioner Ben Geiger as Officer Delegate Alternate to the Municipal Employee Retirement System 2016 annual meeting. County employees voted by secret ballot to send Jeffrey Nieuwenhuis as Employee Delegate with Karen Barns as Employee Delegate Alternate. The meeting offers municipalities continuing education on their pension systems and to elect board members, Brown said.

 

In other business, the commissioners recommend approval of:

*  the 2017-2019 Region 3B Area Agency on Aging proposed plan with goals, services and funding for older adults in Barry and Calhoun counties. CEO Karla Fales gave a presentation with the details. The plan will be submitted to the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging for final approval by the Michigan Commission on Services to the Aging.

 

* a request by Jan McLean, executive director of Barry County Mental Health Authority, that  the commission support a resolution in support of the national program,  the Stepping Up Initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jail. Additional funds for jail diversion initiatives are tied to support from the commission, McLean said.

Jail Diversion Program Manager Ashley James provided data and answered questions about the program.

 

* the state emergency management performance grant agreement to pay $31,454 of Barry County Emergency Management Director Jim Yarger’s salary and benefits. Yarger said the work agreement for the grant is signed and all grant requirements are up to date.

 

* a second request from Yarger to approve the county as the sub-grantee for Region 5 Michigan Technical Rescue Team equipment and training purchases for $65,000 during the grant period of fiscal year 2015.

 

* the Barry County Trial Court to replace a 2009 Dodge Caravan with a 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan through Mi-DEAL for $23,048. The capital budget allows $20,000 for replacement of the van; the budget will be amended to cover the difference of $1,048.

 

 

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