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Published: Friday, 3/25/2005

Judges back plan to limit entry into courthouse

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Currently, people can enter the Wood County Courthouse without going through security. Currently, people can enter the Wood County Courthouse without going through security.
ZAPOTOSKY / BLADE Enlarge

BOWLING GREEN - Wood County's four judges said yesterday that they support the idea of establishing a single-point, secured entrance to the courthouse complex.

During an hour-long meeting with the county commissioners and other elected officials, the judges also indicated that they want a court security department under their direction to continue patrolling the courthouse and two adjacent office buildings, rather than turning the job over to the sheriff's office.

"Our recommendation to you would be that we move toward the single secured entrance," Common Pleas Judge Reeve Kelsey told the commissioners, speaking on behalf of fellow judges Alan Mayberry, Robert Pollex, and David Woessner.

Last year, the county finished construction of a $2.2 million atrium that connects the courthouse, county office building, and county records center with a main entrance off North Summit Street. The atrium was designed so access to all three buildings could be restricted to the main entrance, where visitors would pass through a metal detector monitored by a security officer.

Currently, people can enter the county complex through several doors without passing a security check.

Judge Kelsey said the judges support allowing elected officeholders and designated employees to continue having access to the courthouse complex through other entrances by use of key fobs. Many of those officials and staff members already use key fobs so can they work in their offices on weekday evenings or on weekends.

In addition, local attorneys have round-the-clock access to the county's law library, which is in the old Wood County Jail and connected to the courthouse by the atrium.

Rebecca Bhaer, the county's clerk of courts, said such access is crucial for her to be able to complete her duties, which sometimes means working after normal business hours.

"If I have to walk through a metal detector to ensure somebody's safety, I don't mind," she said. "But I want to be able to do the job I'm elected to do."

But County Prosecutor Ray Fischer questioned whether allowing employees to use other doors would defeat the purpose of having a secured entrance

"It seems incongruous that you'd have a single entrance and yet allow employees to have unfettered access 24/7 by coming into the parking garage," he said.

Jim Carter, chairman of the county commissioners, said key fobs could be programmed to allow employees access only to certain building entrances and certain offices.

County officials did not discuss when a single-point entrance could be established, but the county's court security advisory committee plans to conduct a two-day test with a metal detector in May, Mr. Carter said.

After the meeting, Mr. Carter said he expected the county to set up a secured entrance to the complex sometime this year. Officials haven't discussed the cost to do so, but the main expense would likely be paying a constable or sheriff's deputy to monitor the entrance, he said.

On Wednesday, Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn notified other elected officials that he wanted his office to take over security for the county office complex, which has been handled by the court security department for the past nine years.

The judges told the sheriff they appreciated his offer but were pleased with the court security department, led by Chief Court Constable Thomas Chidester.

"It has been Constable Chidester's singular focus on security in all three buildings that has improved security for all the people who work here," Judge Kelsey said.

Contact Steve Murphy at:

smurphy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.



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