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County secures $6K for courthouse security

The checkpoint at the Washington County Government Center will undergo safety improvements that Sheriff Dan Starry said will benefit both visitors and employees thanks to a recent state grant.

The building houses the county's Department of Corrections and 10th Judicial District Court.

Washington County received $6,600 from the Safe and Secure Courthouse Initiative, which split a million-dollar grant announced in June among 57 Minnesota counties to fund additional safety measures.

"This grant will certainly help us with our commitment of providing courthouse security and make sure we have effective measures put into place," Starry said. "For the citizens and visitors that come through, it will certainly improve the security at that checkpoint, but it's also for the employees within as well. "

Counties that receive the grants will provide dollar-for-dollar matches toward such things as adding security training, replacing aging security equipment and installing bullet-resistant glass at public service counters.

Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, who led the grant's advisory panel, said the funding is the first of its kind in the state.

"This is an important step forward for our justice system, and one that will serve to better protect the thousands of Minnesotans who enter their local courthouses every day," Gildea said in a news release. "This is truly an access to justice issue, and Minnesotans deserve to feel safe when coming to court, accessing government services, or fulfilling their duties as citizens and taxpayers."

Grants ranged from about $500 to $68,000, with eight counties receiving more than $25,000 and 13 receiving less than $5,000.

The panel received grant applications from 59 counties.

Nearly half of the recipients received their full funding request, while 33 counties received a partial grant.

Full requests from each applicant total up to $3.5 million, more than three times the amount the Legislature allotted.

"It is clear from the volume of grant requests we received that there is a tremendous need for improved courthouse security in every corner of Minnesota," Blue Earth County Commissioner and advisory panel member Will Purvis said in a release. "Our courthouses serve a vital community purpose, and house important functions of both state and local government. We look forward to building upon this new state and local partnership and continuing to seek ways to ensure the safety of the people who work in and visit our county courthouses."

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