Wright County Commissioner wants courthouse metal detector changes

by John Holler


For the last several years, anyone entering the Wright County Courthouse has had to have their bags searched and walk through a metal detector. To some, it’s viewed as part of post-9/11 lives in the United States. It’s the same reason why you take your shoes off before you’re allowed to go on a plane.

At the June 4 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, a proposal to change the policy was brought forward to be heard at the committee level for what promises to be a lengthy discussion. Commissioner Charlie Borrell asked that the matter be discussed at a committee of the whole meeting — with changes hoped to be made.

“What we have in place now just isn’t right,” Borrell said. “I understand the fear that some people have and that was the reason why the detectors were moved the entrance doors in the first place. Why should we think that, because we’re in government we should have a higher level of security than anyone else? I don’t see this as a safety issue. I see it as a personal freedom issue.”

Of all the citizen complaints Borrell has heard while running for county commissioner and since taking office, the metal detectors that are stationed inside the two public entrances to the courthouse far outweigh any other issue. When another county board topic of discussion switched to moving the license bureau to the former sheriff’s office/jail area so they could avoid the metal detectors, Borrell said he had heard enough and decided to bring his suggestion forward.

“For a county board that is looking to save $1,000 here or there, this doesn’t make any sense,” Borrell said. “We’re going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to remodel parts of the courthouse for that reason? Why? It’s bad enough that we have four or five deputies manning two spots at the entrances to the buildings to make sure everyone walks through the metal detectors? You can go to the state capitol and walk in and directly to the office of your senator or representative and not have to go through a metal detector. Do we really need that here?”

Borrell believes that there is a place for metal detectors in the county courthouse, but back where they were originally. The courts area, where judges sentence convicted criminals to jail time have always been viewed as being in harm’s way. That is why personnel with guns are stationed up there. Prior to be moved down to the entryways to the courthouse, there was a metal detector outside the entrance to the courts area and that is where Borrell believes it should be returned to. Not only could it prevent moving the license bureau, but it would save hundreds of thousands in the cost of have multiple deputies manning the checkpoints.

“I’m not looking to get rid of the magnetometers,” Borrell said. “I believe they belong outside the courtrooms. I just don’t think we need to make everyone who enters the courthouse go through what they have to go through to get inside, much less the expense involved. I was in the Navy for much of my life. I understand security. This is simply unnecessary and too costly.”

The board voted to set a building committee of the whole meeting to discuss the matter for 9 a.m. Thursday, June 20, in the commissioners’ meeting room.

In other items on the June 4 agenda, the board:

APPOINTED Lee Kelly as the interim county coordinator effective June 6. Kelly, who has served as special projects manager in the administration department under retiring County Coordinator Dick Norman, has sat in for Norman in recent years when he is unable to attend board meetings.

IN a related item, set a committee of the whole meeting for 9 a.m. Monday, June 24, to discuss the pros and cons of switching the county coordinator position to one of a county administrator. In order to make the change to a county administrator, the matter would be required to be a ballot question for voters to decide. A county administrator would be the person department heads would directly report to instead of the county board. An administrator, it can be argued, would be in charge of the county — holding equal if not higher power in the decision-making process than the county board currently holds. A county coordinator is a conduit between the board and county employees that implements board policy. An administrator would have a higher level of autonomy to make decisions.

SET a building committee of the whole meeting to obtain quotes for a potential relocation of the license bureau from its current location on the first floor of the county courthouse to the former county jail/sheriff’s office location. In addition, the committee will discuss relocating the first floor lunchroom in the courthouse.

AWARDED the contract for the county’s township signing project to Safety Signs, Inc. The project has been years in the making because all 18 county townships had to sign off on the project to be approved. The contract awarded was for $1.01 million — $809,000 coming in federal funding and $202,000 coming in a local match.

AUTHORIZED Highway Engineer Virgil Hawkins to compile a summary of Wright County’s transportation funding policy, which will include a comparative analysis from surrounding counties as well as a history of Wright County’s past practices. The summary is then to be sent to cities and townships to garner input on further discussion of the county’s current policy. A public hearing will be held in the late summer or early fall to discuss potential changes to the current policy.

ANNOUNCED that, as of Jan. 1, the Wright County website will be designated as the official county website for publishing bid specifications for county projects. That role has been held by the official county newspaper and has resulted in some delays in getting bids posted. While the official county newspaper may continue to be used, the website will get the bid specs out to potential bidders quicker and more efficiently than the current system.

SET the annual county board road tour for 8 a.m. Wednesday, June 26, starting at the Public Works Building in Buffalo.


Contact John Holler at [email protected]