Courthouse safety checkpoints, features to come

Prosecutor: ‘We have been on borrowed time’

By Sam Wildow - Miami Valley Today

MIAMI COUNTY — The Board of Miami County Commissioners will be moving forward with adding safety features that include bag checkpoints at the entrances to the old courthouse and Safety Building lobbies after the county did not receive funding for the project — a project for which Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak said the sheriff’s office has been advocating for for over 20 years.

During a joint meeting with the commissioners and other representatives from the county courts on Thursday, Miami County Prosecutor Tony Kendell said he felt like they have “been on borrowed time for a lot of years” without these safety features.

The commissioners met with the heads and representatives of a number of departments located in the old courthouse and the Safety Building — including the common pleas, municipal, and juvenile courts along with the prosecutor’s office, sheriff’s office, IT department, and facilities department — to ask for help on funding the security.

Duchak said the estimated cost for the project is around $100,000, which would include X-ray machines to process bags, purses, briefcases, and other items that would need searched when the public would enter either the old courthouse or the Safety Building. The county’s metal detectors would be moved to those lobbies for the public to walk through when entering those buildings. There would also be additional personnel, cameras, alarms, hardwire, phone lines, and work stations that would come with those checkpoints.

Commissioner Greg Simmons asked the representatives of each of the courts if they would be willing to contribute one fourth of the cost — around $25,000 each — to the start-up of the project and then the county would also pay approximately $25,000 as well out of their budget. Simmons said that the county will be spending a little over $400,000 each year to operate these safety features, which includes the cost of additional personnel, and that cost would come out of the county’s funds. The courts would not have to pay toward that yearly cost.

“On the Common Pleas Court side, we are very supportive of this endeavor and this measure,” Miami County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeannine Pratt said. “I think it benefits our courts, I think it benefits all the elected officials and their offices as well as the public.”

She went on to say that all of the elected officials should also be asked to contribute as they would be benefitting from this project, too.

“We run on a very tight budget,” Pratt said. She said that the Common Pleas Court has two upcoming projects that they are also working on, so the $25,000 “would be a lot” for the court to manage.

Other representatives from other courts expressed similar concerns.

Commissioner Jack Evans said that they had not asked the elected officials for contributions as the courts have special funds whereas the elected officials’ budgets come out of the county’s general fund.

“We will go ahead and pay for everything, but if we could get some help from you, we would really appreciate it, but we’re going to go ahead with this no matter what,” Simmons said. “It’s something that all three of us have talked about. We have to get it going.”

The representatives from the courts did not make any committments at that time, but the commissioners asked for input within 60 days. The commissioners also indicated that Duchak and the county IT department could go ahead with ordering new cameras and beginning the process for implementing the new safety features. The county is expected to bid out the purchase for the X-ray machines.

Kendell thanked the commissioners, saying, “This has been a long time coming.”

Kendell went on to say that he was appreciative that the commissioners were willing “to move forward with this and make it a reality.”

He also said that, as an elected official, he agreed with the representatives from the courts that everybody will benefit from this.

“I’m ready to do my part,” Kendell said.

Prosecutor: ‘We have been on borrowed time’

By Sam Wildow

Miami Valley Today

Reach Sam Wildow at © 2019 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.

Reach Sam Wildow at © 2019 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.