Security at the Erie County Courthouse has been judged inadequate and commissioners plan to do something about it.
Erie County Commissioners decided after a Thursday morning meeting with Sheriff Terry Lyons to improve courthouse security by:
*Dusting off an X-ray machine to screen for weapons
*Hiring part-time security employees
*Installing more than a dozen security cameras inside and outside
County Administrator Mike Bixler said the commissioners are willing to pay the cost of hiring a courthouse security team of four part-time employees, assuming it will be a "reasonable amount" of money.
"We will try to make it happen this year," Bixler said. "We may be getting close to the 2008 budget by the time we get it finalized."
He said several county officials, including himself and Commissioner Tom Ferrell, plan to meet soon with the county judges -- or at least Judge Robert Delamatre -- to discuss the matter.
The new security employees could work for the judges, the county, or both.
"That is what we need to talk to the judges about," Bixler said.
But this part-time security team won't be made up of deputy sheriffs.
Lyons said he met with his deputies' labor union to ask if they would be willing to waive a portion of their contract barring the county from hiring part-time deputies. The answer was no.
The county plans to dust off the unused X-ray machine, which has been stored for years at the Erie County Jail. It will cost $1,200 to $1,500 to make sure the batteries are still working and the machine runs correctly, Facilities Director Allen Jackson said.
Bixler also announced Thursday that the county will move forward in installing video security cameras.
Judges at the courthouse didn't answer letters asking if they wanted to tie the system into the courtroom's system for videotaping court hearings, so the commissioners are going ahead with a stand-alone project, Bixler said.
Jackson said the county won't know the final cost of the video system until it takes proposals from at least three companies. He estimates it could cost about $35,000.
A $22,000 grant will pay for most of the cost. Commissioners will cover the rest with money from a contingency fund, Bixler said.
Plans call for 16 cameras, including 12 inside the building and four outside. They'll monitor and record what's going on at the courthouse.
By the middle of 2008, "we should be up and running," Jackson said about the cameras.