By Cathy Nelson
HOT SPRINGS - Security has been stepped up at the Fall River County Courthouse. If you enter the courtroom, that is located on the second floor of the courthouse, be prepared to walk through a metal detector. A deputy will be present to man the machine. A basket will be present where you place your keys, phone and any other metal items that could set off the alarm.
“It’s just like the airport,” said Lyle Jensen, who is courthouse Maintenance Supervisor, “if the alarm sounds, the person has to go through the detector again and remove the item that sets off the alarm. If a person leaves the court and then returns, they also must go through the detector again.”
About two years ago the 7th Circuit Court judge requested that the county conduct a Homeland Security study. As a result of the study, three security components have been added to the courthouse. First, electric door locks were installed on the outside of the courthouse doors. The cost was $13,000, but the county did not have to pay for the locks due to a homeland security grant that paid 100 percent of the cost.
Next to be installed were bullet-resistant panels that were placed around the judge’s desk and the clerk’s desk. The cost for that project was $2,000. A matching grant paid 50 percent.
Then, about a month and half ago, the metal detector was set up outside the courtroom door. The cost was a little over $4,000, but a 50 percent matching grant helped pay for it.
A deputy and a maintenance person have been manning the detector on court days, but on November 20, the County Commissioners approved the hiring of a deputy for $18,000 for the sole purpose of running the metal detector when court is in session.
Cathy Nelson/Fall River County Herald
Fall River County Commissioner Joe Falkenburg walks through the recently-installed metal detector on the way into the county courtroom, where the county commissioners meet twice a month.