Commission discusses court safety

The Marion County Commission discussed what security measures can be taken to keep people safe in the courtroom and throughout the courthouse at its Monday, Aug. 26 meeting.

Commission chairman Kent Becker asked that the issue of security be added to the agenda because he believes the board needs to provide a safe environment in the courtroom and courthouse. Sheriff Robert Craft and Eighth Judicial District Judge Michael Powers were invited to participate in the discussion.

“We’ve heard options and what is involved,” said Becker. “What are the chances of having a bailiff?”

Craft said the county could hire a person, and have them designated for that purpose only. Becker then asked about an officer being off-duty working as a bailiff.

It was something Craft said he believes that wouldn’t be a good option.

“Although I don’t want to say it,” Becker said, “but they are sitting ducks up there.”

Craft said: “I agree, but we would need to have more certified people. Even on a case-by-case basis, our workload has increased. Maybe on the critical days we could help, but not full time.”

What would the bailiff do on the off days when court isn’t in session? Craft asked. Becker responded that on the other days, the person would be part of the sheriff’s staff.

Commissioner Dianne Novak said she believes we are “pushing our luck” on this issue by not having somebody securing the courthouse.

“I know it’s expensive, but it’s the nature of the beast,” she said.

County clerk Tina Spencer asked the commission about courthouse security in general.

Becker said he would first consider “limited access” into the courthouse.

Powers noted that Riley County created a checkpoint and Geary County didn’t remodel anything but opted just to put in a metal detector and two deputies at handicap accessible door.

“Dickinson County has access through the main door, and they are using officers,” he said. “Dickinson (County) went with private security firm but I’m not sure why.”

“If you put a person full-time in this building, I think they would die of boredom,” Powers said. “But if you were having them check in people with a metal detector, then they would have something to do.”

“Of all the county offices, what one would you think would have the smallest chance of having someone be threatening to them at any given time?” he asked. “I would say, register of deeds. That is my guess.”

Morris County recently had someone in the register of deeds office with a gun getting threatening, Powers said. In other words, nobody really knows where the danger would be.

Becker asked the sheriff if the board authorized him to hire someone, how long would it take to get that person certified. Craft said it could be anywhere from two months to six months.

“What could we do in the meantime?” Becker asked.

Under those circumstances, Becker said he thought maybe the sheriff’s office could have a list of people who would be willing to come in on their off-duty time as a bailiff.

Craft said it would be hard to get someone during the day who is working full-time. Another option could be someone who is retired.

Novak asked about a professional service, but it was explained that many of those private firms might not want to have only a six-month contract.

“Would it be out of the question to just ask (a professional service)?” Novak asked.

Craft said: “To rephrase, if I move somebody over here immediately that is certified (until another new person is certified) that could be do-able, but it would be difficult and require rescheduling.”

Powers asked Craft if he had a preference as to which way the commission should go: private firm or hiring another person in his office.

“No, not necessarily,” Craft said. “I don’t know a lot about security companies, their personnel and their vetting processes. That would be one concern I would have.”

Dallke said: “There’s been a number of think sessions regarding this issue, and we don’t want to wait until it’s too late. But, it’s a costly situation no matter which way the commission goes.”

Michelle Butts, a citizen, asked how many employees have keys to the courthouse?

“I would say a lot of (employees) do,” said Tina Spencer, county clerk.

Becker said that’s another issue, adding that should keys be given to department heads only?

After debating whether it be a county employee or private security firm, the decision was to inquire about a short-term contract, and to revisit the security question at the Sept. 3 meeting, if the information can be obtained.

In other business, the commission:

◼ heard from Judge Powers, who initially attended the commission meeting to discuss the availability of the courtroom for commission board meetings. He said the courtroom would be an excellent place for the board to meet. Powers further said that if the county were to build a new judicial center somewhere, the current courtroom, which has cameras and microphones already in place could serve the commissioners well. However, without having a new judicial center, Powers said it would be a problem. “This week is a perfect example,” he said. “We had a jury trial scheduled to start today and go all week, but last week, (the trial) had to be continued.” For someone walking by the courtroom (Monday), he said, someone might think that because nobody is using the room, they might ask themselves: “Why couldn’t the commissioners use it?” Powers explained that if he were to show a calendar with the remainder of 2019, he believes there would be less than 10 days the courtroom was available. The bottom line is Powers didn’t say any way the commission and court could share the room. Regarding grants, Dallke asked Powers if he had seen any addressing courtrooms. He said he hasn’t seen any.

◼ received two bids for metal culverts—Welborn Sales Inc., Salina, at $16,804, and J & J Drainage Products Inc., Hutchinson, bidding $20,500. The low bid from Welborn was accepted by the board. Dallke inquired about the bidding process because Welborn’s bid was for 14-gauge, but the bid sheet requested the price for the thicker 12-gauge metal culverts. In order to compare “apples to apples,” said Brice Goebel, county engineer, the company resubmitted a new bid for the 12-gauge. In addition, Goebel said there’s different corrugation in the Welborn culverts, but said the Road and Bridge Department will make it work. Becker asked about the longevity of the culverts noting that he’s seen culverts with bent ends down and other problems caused by various weights. Goebel said the biggest problem with culverts is with the depth of ditches relative to the road or surface area. “We never know if we are going to have five-foot of filler or six inches, but with heavier gauge pipe it should perform better.”

◼ reviewed bids for county road signs. Goebel said these signs will replace all the signs in the county. “It’s incredible how many of these signs are gone,” he said. “This has been a big push after talking to the EMS director Travis Parmley, he has a lot of people from out of the county.” The commissioners approved the low bid from National Sign Co. Inc. of Ottawa for $33,987. The other bidder, J & A Traffic Products, Grain Valley, Mo., was $37,077. Novak asked how the signs are mounted, and if they could be spot welded. Goebel said if someone is going to take a sign, they will figure out a way to take the sign. He also said the “Mustang” signs are hard to keep, which is frustrating.

◼ Goebel said his department plans to forego chip sealing this year, but will continue blade patching. He said road crews are currently working on 140th south of Sunflower Road, and then will go down to Old Mill Road and 60th west of Peabody. The crews plan to finish the year on 330th with Tampa and Kanza. “We have more issues then chip seal will cover,” Goebel said, “and I’m more confident with blade patching then chip sealing,” Dallke said the road department tries to get by through the winter and some of the holes were kicked back up again. Novak said she believed it was the right thing to do under the circumstances.

◼ agreed to meet Aug 30 for a payday meeting, and after the Labor Day weekend, Tuesday, Sept 3

◼ reviewed area fuel bids submitted by Cooperative Grain and Supply in Hillsboro and Epp’s Service in Elbin. The commissioners approved the low bid from Cooperative Grain and Supply in Area 1 for 1,400 gallons of fuel at $1.9450 per gallon, totaling $2,723. Epp’s bid in Area 1 was $1.9590 totaling $2,743.

◼ accepted the low fuel bid in Areas 2 and 3 presented by Epp’s Service for 1,950 gallons at $2.06 per gallon, totaling $4,017 and 1,950 gallons at $1.95 per gallon, totaling $3,802.50 respectively. Cooperative Grain and Supply’s bids were 1,950 gallons at $2.0690, totaling $4,035, and in Area 3 at 1,950 gallons at $1.96 per gallon, totaling $3,822.

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