Plans brewing amongst county officials to increase security surrounding courthouse

By Jessica Johnston, Assistant News Director

The Muskingum County Courthouse is joining trends across the state of courthouses ramping up security both inside and outside the building.

Thursday morning, the Muskingum County Commissioners met with the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office, Common Pleas judges, the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office and the Maintenance Supervisor to push plans forward for increasing security in the Muskingum County Courthouse.

Once plans are finalized, and orders are submitted, the multi-entrance Muskingum County Courthouse will turn into a single-entrance facility with increased security at the entry point.

County residents and visitors will be required to enter the courthouse on the lower level, walk through a metal detector and likely be required to send their belongings on a conveyor belt to be scanned before gaining access to the building.

“The commissioners have had the idea for quite some time of taking multiple entrances down to one entrance to make the courthouse more secure,” Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said. “I think in light of everything that’s happened in our country over the last several months, several years, I think this has been a trend. And I think the commissioners are to be commended for finding the resources to do this.”

Lutz added that the courthouse was not built to be a single-entrance structure, so there will be “growing pains” for the public during the transitional period.

In addition to the added technology at the entrance, the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office will employ two additional deputies to man the entry point and assist with other security within the courthouse. There is currently one deputy assigned to courthouse security.

The cameras on the outside of the courthouse will also undergo some upgrades to provide more up-to-date technology and higher resolution video. Lutz added that the camera may also be moved around the courthouse to focus on specific areas.

The cost of the new entryway technology is estimated to total between $30,000 and $50,000, and the cost of two new deputies would be around $80,000 annually.

“It’s a huge undertaking for the commissioners, but they should be applauded for wanting to try to make our building as safe as it can be for our workers that work in here, but for our citizens that have to come to the courthouse,” Lutz said. “Again, it’s just like the schools, these are places where our citizens should feel safe to go and it’s our job to try to make it that way.”

While many logistics were discussed during the meeting, Muskingum County Common Pleas Judge Kelly Cottrill added that, in addition to safety, visitors in the courthouse also need to feel welcome. He suggested the deputies manning the new technology be as personable as possible.

“I’m just grateful you guys are doing this. It’s time,” Cottrill said to the commissioners during the meeting.

Looking toward the transition, it’s estimated that installation will be 30 to 45 days after the equipment models are chosen and the orders are placed. All agencies involved were hoping to get equipment purchases and grant applications finalized by the end of the month.