Securing a courthouse

Published 10:05 am Friday, April 19, 2013


COURTLAND—Southampton County officials gathered at the courthouse Tuesday for a work session, which was called by the county’s Board of Supervisors to further discuss security upgrades to the facility.

PMA Architecture representative Jeff Stodghill began an overview of the upgrades with a tour of the building’s exterior. Those in the crowd included all the supervisors, County Administrator Mike Johnson, Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke, Clerk of Court Rick Francis and Sheriff Jack Stutts and several interested residents.

While not mandated, Chief Circuit Court Judge Rodham Delk Jr., has requested the board look into improvements.

Stodghill began by pointing out that along the covered walkway, there were several safety concerns involved, including ground-level windows and shadowed areas behind trees.

At the entrance, Stodghill said, the century-old courthouse did not meet today’s standards. He pointed out that separate doors were needed for those entering and those exiting, with an area to screen belonging with an x-ray machine as well as a metal detector.

Stodghill likened the concept to airport security, saying there is only one way in and one way out.

Inside the lobby, Stodghill pointed out the lack of space and that hallways and corners fan out throughout the building.

He stressed the proposed upgrades include installing security cameras through the complex, to provide visual surveillance at the Sheriff’s office.

“The only way to deal with it is to add cameras – to overcome the imperfect way it is set up now,” Stodghill said.

“Cameras are a relatively cheap way to get an eye in every corridor and improves the odds of a safer outcome,” he added.

Stodghill pointed out that extra seating would be provided in the planned updated lobby to allow for family members to wait in regard to juvenile cases when privacy is required.

At the March Board of Supervisors meeting, Stodghill said the price tags for the updates would be approximately $525,000, plus $175,000 for equipment and $240,000 for an emergency back-up generator.

The generator’s capacity was discussed, and the consensus among the board was for Stodghill to offer the board alternatives for each phase of the upgrades.

Capron District Supervisor Bruce Phillips said he wanted to install the cameras and wanted to hear separate costs for those types of upgrades.

Jerusalem District Dr. Alan Edwards said he wanted the cost separated into external, inside and the generator.

Newsoms District Supervisor Glenn Updike indicated he was opposed to the debt involved to do everything all at once. He suggested it be spread out as funds become available.

Clerk of Court Rick Francis asked the board to consider an increase in lighting for the parking lot.

Drewryville District Chairman Dallas Jones concluded with asking Stodghill to bring them back a “grocery” list and let them decide what can be “checked off.”

The matter will again be on the agenda at next Monday night’s regular supervisors’ meeting.