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Bingham Co. plans more security at courthouse

Some Bingham County employees say they don’t always feel safe working at the courthouse. County leaders understand, and want to beef up security at the front door. But first, they need to secure funding.

It was business as usual at the Bingham County courthouse on Friday afternoon. People came and went as they pleased, as Treasurer Janice Laws wrapped up another week of tax collecting.

“We’ve had a few people that we anticipate they’re coming in and they’re angry and we have been a little concerned,” said Laws.

Laws, who’s worked in the treasurer’s office for 30 years, said she’d feel better if there was something more than signs at the entrance to make sure those people don’t have weapons.

Sheriff Dave Johnson said six years ago, the county began locking interior doors so only employees have access. He said more security cameras were on the way. But, said Johnson, that’s not enough anymore.

“Attitude,” said Johnson. “Look across the country. Look at the attitude of … we have some pretty desperate people out there we’re dealing with.”

Johnson said whether it’s the economy or political climate, there is more confrontation nowadays. He said calls to dispatch about domestic issues and suicide have increased significantly.

A particularly eye-opening experience came two years ago, said Johnson, when security was set up temporarily during a high-profile court case.

“And we found a number of weapons coming through the front door into the courthouse,” he said.

Johnson said the plan is to install a metal detector and a scanner at the main entrance. He said it’s similar to security at airports, minus the potential “pat down.” Plus, he said, there would be two armed officers there full time.

“For a whole year, and also (a) part-time individual, we’re looking right around $100,000 for salaries,” said Johnson.

Johnson and others on the county safety committee hope a grant from Homeland Security will help cover the $30,000 equipment.

“We understand there’s a cost,” said Laws. “But if something happened to someone then we would wish that cost had been taken care of, because you can never replace someone’s life.”

Nate Satterthwaite, who heads the safety committee, said the time frame all depends on funding. If grants come through quickly, it could be three months, said Satterthwaite. If it takes longer and the county budget is tight, it could be a year or more.

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