Wright County to move courthouse metal detectors, but where?

by John Holler

When County Commissioner Charlie Borrell took office, one of his first goals was to get rid of the metal detectors at the entrance doors of the county courthouse, claiming the detectors were a basic violation of human rights. At the Aug. 6 meeting of the Wright County Board, Borrell got a victory of sorts, as the board voted to eliminate one of the metal detectors and move the other. The only question remaining is where will it go?

“Those metal detectors angered me every time I walked through them,” Borrell said. “I just thought it was ridiculous to make everyone who enters the courthouse to go through those metal detectors and I’m glad we’re finally going to get them out of the entrance doors.”

Aside from Wright County, the only other county in Minnesota that has metal detectors at the entrance doors of its county courthouse is Hennepin County. But, there remain questions as to where the detectors will be moved. Just about every county in the state has metal detectors outside its courts area and Wright County will keep at least one metal detector to assure that people heading into courtrooms can’t potentially bring weapons in. The job of protecting the judges and county employees is one of the responsibilities of Sheriff Joe Hagerty, who said he will continue to do his duty, but whether the metal detectors are at the entrance doors isn’t a call for him to make.

“I’m going to remain neutral on this because, in the end, it’s a county board decision to make,” Hagerty said. “Personally, I still want to have a law enforcement presence in the courthouse. If you have security and then pull it away, there can be the perception that safety is compromised. It’s a debate that you can see from both sides, but, as sheriff, safety for the judges and court administration is my primary concern and my mandated responsibility. I am required to provide bailiffs for the courtrooms and protection for the judges, court administration and juries. We recognize that we live in a society that requires metal detectors.”

Where the metal detector ends up is still in question. Hagerty thinks the detectors should move just a few feet from the current location at the front entrance of the courthouse and include a TSA scanner that will run bags through — similar to what people see in airports. Borrell wants the detector moved up to the second floor where the public entrance to the courts area is. That decision will be determined by the building committee. The board voted unanimously to approve the elimination of one metal detector and moving the other, but to hold off on that decision until a plan is finalized by the building committee.

In other items on the Aug. 6 agenda, the board:

ON a 3-2 vote, authorized Parks Administrator Marc Mattice to pursue grant applications for the seventh phase of the Bertram Chain of Lakes parkland purchase. Commissioner Christine Husom voted against seeking grant funding, saying the county has already purchased enough land for a showpiece park and that the remaining land would be highly coveted and could be put on the tax rolls if sold. Commissioner Mike Potter also voted against it, saying he was siding with Husom’s view, but acknowledged that he did so knowing the proposal already had enough votes to pass. The current proposal to purchase 157 acres would be paid largely though grant funds with a county match of $185,000 — about 10 percent of the total acquisition cost.

LAID over advertising for an administrative specialist in the county coordinator’s office until after the new coordinator has been hired.

ON a 4-1 vote, approved a contract with Houston Engineering for the creation of the ditch drainage database. The county agreed to pay the $15,000 up front cost for the software and assess the cost of the $4,000 annual subscription to the benefitted landowners. Commissioner Mark Daleiden voted against the matter, saying that all of the costs should be shared by the county and landowners.

APPROVED a three-year contract with AGC Networks Inc. for the support and maintenance of the county’s telephone voice system at an annual cost of $32,822. The contract runs through August 2016.

AMENDED the schedule for the budget committee of the whole meetings to include the addition of meeting dates for Aug. 19 and Aug. 26 following county board meetings those days.

APPROVED designating the area between 70th Street between County Roads 42 and 19 in the city of Otsego as a regional trail. By getting the regional trail designation, the city trail would be more competitive in the park and trail grant application processes.

ACCEPTED the 2012 highway department annual report.

AUTHORIZED advertising for a new agricultural inspector. Last month, the county learned that Ken Johnson, the ag inspector for more than a decade that the county had contracted with, had died months earlier. The board voted to include that the candidates for the job be aware that they would be contract employees and not employees of the county.

APPROVED 2014-15 law enforcement contracts with the cities of Delano, Otsego and Rockford.

APPROVED payment of $3,432 to the consulting firm of Madden, Galanter & Hansen for work performed for the county during June.

Contact John Holler at [email protected]