Packed meetings and impassioned statements about possible violations of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution aside, members of the Scott County Council and Commissioners are taking action to develop a security system for the Courthouse in downtown Scottsburg.
People who attended recent meetings at which the topic was debated were more or less divided into two groups: Those who wanted more security and those who did not. The security-minded group included nearly all courthouse employees, some of whom had personally experienced vocal threats about their safety. The second group felt not allowing licensed gun owners to carry weapons into the building could be a violation of their rights.
The meeting held on July 27 was well-attended. Those who talked were certain that their viewpoint was the correct one. Nearly all were unhappy that events had led to the prospect of “the people's building” being changed to restrict open entrances and to monitor those entering.
“It's been happening everywhere,” said Bob Tobias, current president of the Board of County Commissioners. “It's a shame that we are even considering having to screen people, but it's also a fact of life in today's world.”
Back in July, several courthouse staffers were confronted by a man who was visibly upset and yelled invective and threatened to shoot employees. He was arrested on an intimidation charge and sent to a mental health facility for evaluation. The case has not yet been settled.
The incident fomented more interest in the topic of courthouse security.
Earlier this year, a Courthouse Security Committee was formed. Its chairman, Sheriff Dan McClain, presented a plan calling for locking most of the Courthouse doors, installation of a metal detector and hiring two guards who would work the same hours as courthouse employees, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Commissioners forwarded the committee's report on to the County Council, requesting security funding. The plan was sent back to Commissioners with a request for more details. At the Commissioners' meeting on August 3, officials decided that they wanted every recommendation in the report. They voted to accept it as the plan they wanted and, again, forwarded it to the County Council.
At the end of a very long day dealing with departmental budgets on Tuesday, August 16, the Council determined that it would vote to create a line item in the Commissioners' 2016 budget labeled the County Security Fund.
After statements were made by Judge Roger Duvall, Commissioner Tobias and Councilman Raymond Jones, the Council adopted figures presented by Jones to fund the plan for the rest of the year. The sum to be placed in the line item is $70,000. That should cover all cost of purchasing security equipment and two employees, Jones said in his presentation.
Each of the two motions passed 5-2, Councilmen Chris Albertson and Eric Gillespie voting against them. Gillespie voiced his opposition early in the meeting, saying, “I am going to vote against it because it's going to set up this (security) plan.” Gillespie had lobbied to allow certain employees to be armed. Albertson said he wanted more information.
Commissioner Tobias advised that hiring guards through a vendor which offers retired and off-duty state police officers could cut the county's costs. Another measure he supported was exploring the idea of locating the Probation Department away from the courthouse. From 400 to 500 probationers and parolees report to that department weekly.
And the present offices the Probation Department occupies in the basement are very crowded, pointed out Commissioner Kelley Robbins. “I don't like these changes either, but we have to start somewhere,” he remarked.
“We consider this 'seed money.' You can get this set up now,” Councilman Raleigh Campbell Jr. told the Commissioners.
Commissioners touched on the issue once again at their meeting on Wednesday, August 17, with Tobias to contact the manpower vendor. A presentation by Alliance Security Inc. has tentatively been scheduled for the Commissioners' meeting on Wednesday, September 7.