Courthouse security upgrades lowered

Published 1:44 pm Monday, October 8, 2018

JACKSON – Discussions about security upgrades to the Northampton County Courthouse have been ongoing for well over a year. The Board of Commissioners approved here Monday a proposal to reduce the cost of those building improvements.

County Manager Kimberly Turner, who presented the information to the Board, worked alongside Sheriff Jack Smith in order to come up with a recommendation which would save money and still provide the needed security upgrades. Their proposal cut the estimated cost from over $200,000 to approximately $25,000.

Included in the original proposal was an enclosure that would connect the courthouse to the finance building next door, meaning the small courtroom housed in the finance building would only be accessible by going through security in the main courthouse. This enclosure is no longer included in the security upgrades.

“Can you explain how that’s going to work,” asked Commissioner Fannie Greene about what would be done in place of connecting the two buildings.

Sheriff Smith stated a new metal detector would be set up to screen people entering the small courtroom in the finance building, and a deputy would be stationed at that entrance.

The new proposal will also include upgrades such as the installation of new metal detectors, door swipe access for employees, and new back doors which will make it easier for deputies to see people approaching the building.

Sheriff Smith explained that upgrading to X-ray scanners were too costly, but the new up-to-date metal detectors will effectively “get the job done.” The courthouse’s status as a registered historical building, he added, limited what kind of upgrades they were able to do.

“I think this will suffice rather than spending a quarter of a million dollars,” Sheriff Smith told the Board.

“What is the potential timeframe for completion,” asked Commissioner Geneva Faulkner.

Turner estimated about three or four months, explaining they would have to meet with the architect again as well as coordinate with the courthouse schedule to avoid work while court is in session.

Chairman Robert Carter asked if the funds for these upgrades were in the budget, and Turner answered in the affirmative.

“I just want to commend the Sheriff and our County Manager,” said Commissioner Charles Tyner, expressing his support for saving money while still implementing new safety measures.

Faulkner motioned to approve the new proposal, and Tyner seconded. The vote was unanimously in favor.

Turner also reported they were looking into improving security at other county buildings as well.