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Published: Thursday, 3/31/2005

Dry run slated for Wood County courthouse security system

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Visitors to the Wood County Courthouse will get their first taste of new security measures planned for the county office complex during a trial run May 25-26.

On those days, everyone entering the courthouse and adjacent county office building will be required to enter the courthouse atrium through the North Summit Street entrance, pass through a metal detector, and allow their bags to be checked by a package scanner.

Chief Court Constable Thomas Chidester told the court security advisory committee yesterday that constables working at the entrance will be keeping track on an hourly basis of how many employees, members of the public, and vendors enter the complex.

Mr. Chidester said he plans to use those statistics to determine how to adequately staff the entrance if the county makes the single, secured entrance a permanent feature.

So far, county officials do not know what it would cost to staff the entrance with security officers on a full-time basis, although at a meeting of elected officials last week most agreed it was time to implement that measure.

Mr. Chidester said while nothing has been finalized about how the system would operate on a daily basis, he would like to have vendors and contractors who come to the court complex sign in and be issued a identification badge.

He said that in the past, some vendors working at the complex have been discovered in restricted areas.

Some members of the committee said they did not think it was appropriate for members of the public to be asked to state their business when they came through the checkpoint. Mr. Chidester said there were no plans to do that.

County Treasurer Jill Engle agreed there should not be.

"I want the public to feel welcome. I don't want taxpayers to feel harassed," she said. "They're here to pay taxes. They're here to buy a dog license. There should be no questions at all. They're from the public. You don't need to know anything else, I feel."

Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn suggested that constables simply ask visitors whether they need directions to wherever they're going and leave it at that.

"The important thing is to have people go through a metal detector," he said. "As long as they're not bringing a weapon in, we're way ahead of where we are today."

Currently, visitors can enter the courthouse from three exterior doors or from the atrium. The public also can enter the atrium from three different doors.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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