County considers increasing security

Posted in: News
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Aug 29, 2013 - 9:00:07 AM

Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks and Sheriff Wayne McKinney met with county commissioners to discuss courthouse security Monday.
“This is not a knee-jerk reaction to what happened last week,” Hicks said, referring to the fatal shooting of an Australian national in Duncan. “This has been something we have been thinking about addressing for a long time.”
Three Duncan teenagers were arrested for their alleged role in the random shooting of Chris Lane. The case drew worldwide media attention to Duncan because of the victim’s nationality, the age of the suspects and their reported motive in the shooting – boredom.
International news organizations packed the Stephens County Courthouse last week during the defendants’ initial appearance before a judge
“We have people running around here with backpacks on and we have no idea what is in them,” Hicks said. “We have had some threatening phone calls. Last Friday, one of the ladies in my office held a security button in her hand the whole time she was working.”
McKinney agreed with Hicks.
“This is not just about what happened last week, but there are a lot of people who are upset with the government right now,” he said. “We are at a boiling point.”
The county needs to be proactive in its approach, according to McKinney. Commissioners were given a memorandum from undersheriff John Smith detailing costs of enhancing courthouse security.
The itemized list includes three additional deputies costing $144,454 in salaries and benefits per year.
Smith also said the county needs updated security equipment, construction of a screening room in the first floor lobby, additional cameras, upgrades to existing surveillance systems, computers and other electronic equipment. Smith estimated the cost at $80,000 to $100,000.
Other suggestions include closing the west door, which would make the east side lobby door the only entrance available for visitors, and securing the southwest side of the parking lot with fencing and gates.
Smith said he did not know the cost, but it could be $50,000.
“We need to have one way in and one way out with two deputies at the front of the courthouse,” McKinney said. “We can take baby steps, we don’t need to do everything at once.”
Commissioners agreed something needed to be done to secure the courthouse but available funds are the issue. Commissioners were to meet Wednesday morning to discuss the county’s proposed 2013-14 fiscal budget with department heads and county officers.
In other business, commissioners opened three bids for industrial ceiling fans at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center. No action was taken and the item was tabled.
Commissioners are looking for ways to reduce heat and air conditioning expenses.
A single fan could operate for approximately 13 cents an hour and could keep temperatures comfortable inside the arena using less heat or air conditioning.
The number of fans needed would depend on the size of the fan blades. Bidding companies included 18- or 24-foot fan blades.
Another item on the agenda dealt with the county acquiring a large wood chipper capable of handling large, fallen trees around the county. Commissioners met with Association of South Central Oklahoma Government representative Tom Ziegler about applying for a grant to help purchase the chipper.
Commissioner Darrell Sparks said the county desperately needs one because so many trees have died in recent years. He estimated the costs of a chipper to be $300,000 to $400,000. All three county districts would use the chipper according the Sparks.
Ziegler said if the county could come up with $150,000 match, each district could receive grants funds of $50,000 if selected.
Commissioners agreed to submit the application.