Supes consider adding security staff at Courthouse

December 31, 2012 9:54:55 AM

Jeff Clark - jclark@cdispatch.com

 

With the mass murder in Newtown, Conn. still fresh on the minds of most Americans and with two bomb threats in a week at the Lowndes County Courthouse, Chancery Clerk Lisa Neese told the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors it's time to increase security at the courthouse. 

 

During Friday's supervisors meeting, Younger said the courthouse needs full-time security and it needs it sooner rather than later. 

 

"I have a huge concern about getting full-time security at the courthouse, especially with things that have happened recently and the bomb threats," Neese said. "It's about to be the beginning of a new year and it is time we do something." 

 

Lowndes County Sheriff Mike Arledge said he supported Neese's recommendation, but currently, he didn't have the manpower to fill another full-time position. 

 

"Some of the issues that go on at the courthouse are difficult things such as divorces and child custody cases," Arledge said. "There are a lot of things that happen in the courthouse that make people very angry. I would rather us hire someone than use an independent security company. We have bailiffs at the courthouse, but they do not have arrest powers." 

 

District 1 supervisor and board president Harry Sanders suggested county administrator Ralph Billingsley and Arledge discuss the costs associated with hiring a full-time officer for the courthouse. Billingsley said he believes the salary would be in the $50,000 range but said he would provide an accurate estimate at the Jan. 7 board meeting. Arledge said he could have the new officer ready to go in a matter of weeks. 

 

The board also discussed overhauling the security systems at the courthouse and at all county buildings. 

 

"It's been a long time coming," District 4 supervisor Jeff Smith said. "I think we need to look at getting security for all of our county buildings. I know money is an issue, but I say we find the funds for this." 

 

Sanders told Billingsley to start working on a cost estimate for installing security cameras in the courthouse. 

 

With hundreds of people on the average docket for Lowndes County Circuit Court, District 5 supervisor Leroy Brooks said a full docket could be one of the biggest threats to safety at the courthouse. 

 

"I question them letting people sign in on court days -- they are running around all over the place," Brooks said. "There have been some fights because of this through the years." 

 

Sanders said the board should possibly look at using the old law library as a holding place for circuit court. 

 

"Maybe we can look at using the upstairs for circuit court days instead of letting all these people walk around and intimidate witnesses and such," Sanders said. "I think we also need to look at our procedures for when we have lunacy hearings. We don't even have bailiffs in the rooms when we have lunacy hearings."