One of the first steps to increasing the Harvey County courthouse is underway, according to administrator Anthony Swartzendruber.
“We have lined up that a representative of the Homeland Security Department will be here,” Swartzendruber told the commission during its Monday meeting. “
That person will look at the county courthouse, health department, law enforcement center, detention center and road and bridge department during a two-day visit next week.
“We will apply the principles of the results they provide to other county facilities,” Swartzendruber said. “We do not believe we can get him to every facility. We felt like we would focus on those."
Usually these types of audits are scheduled well in advance — the 2018 schedule is currently being created. However, there was an opportunity for two days and the county took that opportunity.
There is no cost for the vulnerability assessment.
Security at the courthouse has been an issue for years, with improvements made within the last decade to deal with inmates being taken to district court on the second floor. However, there are other concerns that have not been addressed.
Recently there were three incidents within a one-week time period that called attention to the need of increased security measures at the courthouse. Those incidents in the past week spurred a lengthy discussion regarding security concerns in the district court at April 10's Harvey County Commission meeting.
In all three instances, a law enforcement presence was provided by the sheriff's office.
Projects, such as installing protective barriers, have been approved in future capital improvement plans and the district court will be receiving panic buttons in the near future, but discussion has been ongoing between administration, the sheriff's office, emergency management and the court about what can be done to provide greater immediate security.
Following a 2007 vulnerability assessment, a number of recommendations were given to the commission, but only a few minor adjustments to court security were made.
In other business the commission:
• Discussed a bill that would change if counties or townships are responsible for the replacement of street name signs throughout the county.
• Approved a contract with Enterprise Rentals to provide rental car services at the Newton City/County Airport.
• Discussed water and flood plain issues with residents of the county.
• Approved a grant agreement for Safehope/The Harvey County Domestic Violence Task Force and Safe House.
• Approved a grant award for the Harvey County Department On Aging.
• Recognized the Harvey County communications department for earning the Kansas APCO Team of the Year Award.
• Approved the purchase of a used dump trailer for the Road and Bridge Department at a cost of $42,000.
• Approved moving forward with an additional road work plan that could include an overlay of South Kansas Avenue from Newton to the Sedgwick County line.