County considers security at various facilities
Washington County officials decided to take preventive actions over the past few years when a number of incidents threatened the safety of county employees across the state.
After a Cook County prosecutor was injured in a shooting rampage at the Grand Marais courthouse in 2011, local officials formed a group to decide how to effectively secure employees.
"That was the precursor that set up this group together," Washington County Administrator Molly O'Rourke said of a safety and security task force formed last spring.
The task force looked at ways to enhance security for county employees, customers and clients.
A new report released last week highlights strengths as well as improvements that need to take place to ensure security at the government center, courthouse and satellite locations across the county.
The Stillwater courthouse already has strict access into work areas, and the government center restricts specific parts of the building after hours.
But libraries are lacking strict access to various parts of employee work rooms.
So the task force is recommending that Washington County Board consider spending about $1.2 million to install cameras, add key-card access at the libraries and hire a security coordinator.
Additionally, the staff is asking county officials to consider an ongoing cost of $74,000 for equipment.
"Employees still raise concerns about security in some areas," said Jane Harper, a county principal planner and member of the task force.
Parking areas, walkways and some entrances are in need of additional security, especially since some employees handle cash transactions, she said.
Each satellite facility of the county has its own concerns, Harper said, adding that cameras at main county buildings would add a sense of security and serve as a deterrent to potential crime.
District 3 Commissioner Gary Kriesel said he felt "sticker shock" and wondered "what is considered an abnormal risk" versus what's expected of employees.
"You might have a lot more public than there are staff," Washington County Deputy Administrator Kevin Corbid said of various library locations, which is why additional key card access is needed.
Calling them core features, he said they "just don't exist in libraries" at this time.
Referencing the recent Boston Marathon bombing, Corbid urged county officials to think about how quickly law enforcement was able to put together pieces of the puzzle with videos.
District 1 Commissioner Fran Miron recommended the county come up with a policy that lists how the county looks at security, especially when building new facilities like the Newport Transit Station.
County commissioners did not take official action when staff presented them with the report and recommendations at a workshop Tuesday, May 7. Officials will need to consider the additional expenses during upcoming budget discussions.