Officials plan new courthouse security

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There is an opportunity to address an old problem, Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said.

The Colorado Court Security Fund, made up of court visit fees charged to Colorado residents, offers grants for courthouse security.

Security has been a topic of conversation within the Moffat County Courthouse, a building with no metal detectors, no permanent security staff and multiple ways in and out.

Representatives from the county, courts and Moffat County Sheriff's Office met Monday to review what security might be needed for the local courthouse and what to apply for in a grant.

Gray said the commission will pursue grant opportunities, and if grants aren't approved this year, county officials will keep trying.

Michael O'Hara, 14th Judicial District chief judge, who has been a proponent of enhanced security at the Moffat County Courthouse, said he was glad to see the conversation lead to action.

"Getting to this point is a big improvement," he said. "Whatever we can do within reason, I'll support that."

Bonnie Roesink, 14th Judicial District Attorney, said security concerns don't stem from a fear of terrorists or anything spectacular. Somewhat routine cases often can involve people going through emotional problems, she said.

"It's not a terrorist, it could be a disagreeing husband in a divorce case," she said.

Current plans include a screening station at the top of the third floor landing off the building's central staircase, where all courtrooms and personnel are located.

The Moffat County Regional Airport donated standing metal detectors a few years ago, county Budget Analyst Tinneal Gerber said, which could be used there.

The county's grant application would request funds for staffing, equipment such as detector wands and materials to limit access in other parts of the building.

Two side entrances and one rear entrance to the courthouse would be closed under plans discussed Monday, as well. They only would be used for emergency exits, and an alarm would sound if they were opened.

The doors would be retrofitted with panic bars and alarms, which the grant would cover.

Officials also would limit use of the courthouse elevator, which is the only other access point to the third floor.

Some options discussed were requiring security officers to buzz people off the elevator before the door opens or limiting the elevator to handicapped residents.

Gray said the Commission doesn't want to place detectors at the main entrance because that would burden residents coming in to get their license plates or register to vote.

The courts, though, warrant extra security, he said.

For staffing concerns, county officials agreed to hire additional Sheriff's Office deputies, who would carry a firearm and a Taser. The number of deputies hired remains a point for discussion.

Officials are hopeful a grant could be awarded this year.

Moffat County meets two of four priority criteria for the grant, O'Hara said, and the county should be a good candidate for funding.

The state will release grant applications June 16, Gerber said, with applications due in August. Gerber estimated the grant request would be around $100,000 or more.

Commissioner Tom Mathers said steps to limit access in the courthouse building likely are a temporary fix. Long-term, the Commission remains interested in building courtrooms by the Moffat County Public Safety Center on First Street.

"Ultimately," he said, "that's what we're trying to do."

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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