Friday, October 31, 2014

County OKs added security at court amid gun rule

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 1/8/2014

A new state law is forcing more security at the Franklin County District Court.

The state’s Personal and Family Protection Act, which deals with the concealed carry of handguns and was adopted during the 2013 legislative session, has required added security measures be taken at the district court, 301 S. Main St., Ottawa, in order for the county to not allow concealed carry weapons inside.

A new state law is forcing more security at the Franklin County District Court.

The state’s Personal and Family Protection Act, which deals with the concealed carry of handguns and was adopted during the 2013 legislative session, has required added security measures be taken at the district court, 301 S. Main St., Ottawa, in order for the county to not allow concealed carry weapons inside.

To come into and remain in compliance with the new law, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday morning to add an additional security officer at the district court. The new position is expected to cost $30,000 to $35,000.

“With the new changes in concealed carry ... the way we do business currently, we would not be in full compliance with some of those things when it comes to juries,” Jeff Richards, Franklin County sheriff, said during the commission meeting. “What we’ve been doing is sending Col. [Steve] Lunger or a deputy off the road, and we’ve been doing that way too much — to send people over there to sit at that court.”

There was one security officer and one deputy at the court, Richards said. The security officer who was at the district court applied and was hired as a deputy for the sheriff’s office, he added, so that position would be filled as well as another security officer position added, both funded from the jail budget.

“With what we have budgeted and then the savings we have with the new contract going to Advanced Correctional Healthcare, there’s enough, more than enough, in the jail budget to cover salary and benefits for [an additional] court security officer,” Richards said.

Along with being a security officer, the person in the new position also will work in the Franklin County jail, 305 S. Main St., Ottawa, on an as-needed basis, Richards said.

“There are days when we don’t have a lot going on at the courthouse and you would not need three people,” Richards said. “There are duties at the jail ... and since [the security officers] do work out of the jail and the jail budget, there are things they could do that we need to be doing that we’re a little hit and miss on some of those. [The additional security officer] would allow us to be more consistent with some of those things.”

As well as performing duties at the jail when time permits, the security officers would be used during court hearings at the judge’s request, Richards said, as some hearings warrant a law enforcement officer be present.

“There are certain dockets the judge wants to have security in the courtroom,” he said. “Some are civil court for divorce, some are pro se [without lawyers]. If someone’s representing themselves, they can get heated and the judges feel more secure with someone in the courtroom. We have two courtrooms and the law library being used as a courtroom, [and] many days we have all three going and don’t have the people to put down in there.”

The security position would be a full-time, Grade 2 civilian position, meaning the security officer would not be a trained law enforcement officer, Richards said.

“The beginning salary is $10.82 per hour, and with benefits we’re looking at roughly between $30,000 and $35,000,” he said. “The main reason for wanting to have this be full-time is because having someone I can hire part-time with the hours needed has been a challenge. I would like it to be full-time because on days we need them, most days of the week we do need three people, and because [the position] is out of the jail, on the one day a week when they’re not needed, there are things to do [at] the jail.”

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