Safety dance: County to address security concerns

ESCANABA – Security concerns in the Delta County Courthouse facility was the main topic of discussion at Tuesday’s county board of commissioners meeting.

A security assessment of the facility was completed by Delta County Emergency Management and the Delta County Sheriff’s Department on Jan. 24 and 31 in light of increasing violent activity at schools and governmental buildings throughout the nation.

Some of the main findings of the assessment, highlighted by Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Berbohm during the meeting, included an unlocked district courtroom; unlocked and unoccupied circuit courtroom with direct access to the basement; unsecured records in areas of the basement; easily accessible, unlocked, or unsecured rooms; weak to no radio or cell phone coverage in areas of the basement; and some office layouts and locations offering little or no defense for assaultive behavior.

“You have to look at several elements – time and response,” said Berbohm. “If I can reach across the table and grab you, you have no time for response. But now, put yourself in a secluded area and it’s even worse.”

Another concern discussed was the unlocking of the facility’s doors, which are currently unlocked each morning between 6:30 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. Berbohm said with the exception of early court some mornings, the doors should not be opened until later – when staff are present.

“I would encourage that we change our thought, open our doors at around 7:45 or 7:50,” he said. “When employees have started coming in you have eyes about the building. You have people that are aware of what’s going on.”

Berbohm suggested minimizing entry points into the facility by using one point of entry through the main door on Ludington Street and keeping all other entrances secure.

“It would be a community-wide learning curve because you’re changing people’s habits who are used to coming in at one door or the other, including employees,” he said. However, he noted a second option could be securing the two side doors once employees have arrived in the morning.

Some other ideas that were brought up include use of proximity cards for certain doors with high traffic, figuring out a way to notify all offices of any threats, or having staff participate in active shooter or violence in the workplace training.

Delta County Administrator Nora Viau noted two proximity card openers are being installed for testing in the county clerk and treasurer offices; increasing the number of security cameras is also being addressed.

Berbohm also said all courts should be locked when they are not in session and suggested the possibility of using the current emergency management office as a security office to monitor security cameras.

The board agreed to have a committee of the whole meeting with judges and other departmental heads to further discuss courthouse security on April 16.

In other business, the board:

ratified a renaissance zone lease agreement with appraisal business Silas Enterprises, LLC. A letter of intent from Silas Enterprises president and owner Bill Marmalick noted his desire to construct a combination office and warehouse building on approximately .32 acres of property along Renaissance Lane in the renaissance zone with Cleary Building Corp. serving as the general contractor for the project. According to Viau, this is the county’s second renaissance zone lease; the first was with Roland Machinery.

approved waiving a building permit fee required by the Department of Building and Zoning for the construction of a pavilion in Brampton Township this spring.

approved the second payment to Rapid Electric for the jail generator project in the amount of $27,543.60.

approved the installation quote from Merit Network for a fiber optic connection to the Delta County Service Center building in the amount of $18,540 with funds coming from the computer implementation line item.