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Armed guards hired for court security

Staff writer

County commissioners unanimously agreed Monday to pay an Abilene-based firm about $49,920.00 for a year to provide guards at the courthouse.

S.D. Security guards will work a minimum of 90 hours a month, primarily at district court but also in other portions of the courthouse, at $40 an hour starting Oct. 1.

The expense will be paid from the county general fund.

The commission will review the agreement at the first of the year.

Commissioner David Mueller said having visible security at the courthouse is a priority.

“I’m a big believer in presence, he said. “I believe that presence goes a long way toward prevention when someone sees an officer in the building.”

Steve Davis, who operates S.D. Security, is a 20-year U.S. Army veteran. His firm has provided security for Dickinson County courthouse since March after several visitors bought weapons into a courtroom.

“One had a knife and brandished it,” he said.

Sheriff’s deputies in Geary and Morris Counties provide security there.

Mueller and commissioner Jonah Gehring said the county had considered hiring sheriff’s deputies instead of a contractor.

“It’s one of the avenues that I wanted to explore,” Gehring said, adding that commissioners decided a contractor might be the best option because security officers would not be pulled from duty at the courthouse in an emergency.

Mueller said commissioners sought Sheriff Rob Craft’s opinion before they took action.

“We agreed he is shorthanded the way it is,” Mueller said.

Gehring said the arrangement with the private security firm will require a lot of planning at district court.

Davis is willing to be flexible with hours, but asked to be notified a month in advance.

“It’s a nightmare for me to try to call up on Sunday and say ‘Hey I need you,’” Davis said.

Craft said he is willing to work with security guards as long as there were clear authority boundaries in authority between the deputies and security guards.

“You cross boundaries when you start detaining people,” he said. “We need to differentiate between the sheriff’s office and private security liability for legal purposes — that’s the rub — to make sure they stay two separate entities.”

If a person becomes hostile, there usually is a deputy on duty at the sheriff’s office, he said.

In other business:

  • Commissioners voted unanimously to establish a land bank to refurbish distressed or vacant properties.

Commissioners approved a first payment of $80,424.63 to Nelson Fowles Construction for a 52-by-24-foot dock at Marion County Lake. Total cost of the dock will be $369,084.95. A bond for the project has been filed with district court. Lake superintendent Isaac Hett said material for the new dock has been ordered and construction should start soon.

  • County treasurer Jeannine Bateman said 98% of taxes in Marion County had been collected with only $441,000 still owed. “It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s been a very pleasant surprise. People are doing very well. I am proud of them.”

Last modified Aug. 26, 2021

 

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