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December 16, 2013

County looking at boosting courthouse security systems

Ada — Beefed up security at the Pontotoc County Courthouse is getting closer.

Discussion was tabled for now at the county commissioners meeting Monday, but it will be coming up as the county gets its ducks in a row between now and the end of the year.

Commissioners will soon let bids on a new Courthouse Security Policy system that will upgrade the current instant notification system.

Pontotoc County Sheriff John Christian said the new system could cost between $10,000 and $12,000 and could be in place as early as January.

Beyond the “panic buttons,” a new security system will close down all but the south door entrance and exit. Persons entering there will have to go through a metal detector.

Residents will have to empty their pockets of coins, cell phones, etc. Purses will also have to be passed through the detector. If additional searches are needed, a person could be taken out of the line and escorted to an appropriate location.

Two sheriff’s office employees will man the door.

Christian said the county has tried to resist such surveillance for years. Most courthouses have such a scanning and detection system in place.

“We tried to make sure we had enough security in place to take care of everything.”

Incidents that threaten to turn violent are more common now.

The courthouse does have panic buttons that certain employees can press to alert law enforcement personnel to an emergency.

Right now, people come through doors on all sides of the building at will. There have been instances of yelling and threatening in which officers have been called to quell a disturbances.

In other business, commissioners also heard a report from Chad Letellier on a dollar figure for the Dec. 5-6 winter storm and its cost to the county.

Letellier has, so far, found $131,222 in expenses incurred by the county. He said his research is just beginning. He estimated Monday that the final tab will run between $700,000 -$800,000 dollars.

Much of the expense will come from damage to roads that had to be cleared of snow and ice, resulting in potholes.

He said the  county’s findings will be turned in to the state. Gov. Mary Fallin will need to meet a $5.5 million threshold from the state’s 77 counties to be entitled to federal funds.

If states qualify, the feds pay for 75 percent of the cost while the state picks up 12.5 percent, leaving the county to pick up the final 12.5 percent.

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