Courthouse to add X-ray machine to security measures

An X-ray unit will soon be the next step in upgraded security at the Washington County Courthouse.

Probate-Juvenile Judge Timothy Williams applied for a $35,275 grant through the Ohio Supreme Court last August, along with the courts and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. The grant will cover the cost of the machine, installation and training.

Approximately $3.2 million in technology and security grants were awarded to projects in 54 Ohio counties.

In December, Williams got notification he was granted the funding, and he received the check on Friday.

He said has wanted an X-ray machine for the security point at the courthouse, but no money was available. He found out in January of 2019 that a grant was available that other counties had used to purchase the X-ray units. The grants are available for Ohio appeals, common pleas, municipal and county courts to upgrade systems, hardware or equipment, or purchase new ones.

Williams said it looks like around 12 of the 54 courts to get a security grant will use them for an X-ray machine.

The unit will be used in conjunction with the metal detector and handheld scanners to check bags, purses, backpacks and other bags for weapons, drugs or other contraband, Williams said.

The cost of the X-ray unit will be more than the cost of all of the rest of the security measures taken. The other measures put in place all cost around $30,000.

It will be the next week or so before the machine is purchased, then it will take approximately eight weeks for delivery, then another two weeks for installation and training. It will be around the end of April before the X-ray is up and running.

The supreme court did a physical security assessment years ago and found a lot of issues, including the lack of security for the judges. The supreme court recommended the courthouse have a single entrance and exit, along with the metal detector and X-ray machine.

Williams said the X-ray would enhance security for not only the 126 county employees who work at the courthouse, but the approximately 350 daily visitors to the facility. Deputies from the sheriff’s office currently search each bag by hand, running the risk of being poked by a knife or needle, or being exposed to a dangerous substance such as fentanyl, he said.

“It’s going to be a big help,” said Deputy J.L. Sheaves. “Once people leave and come back in, we have to go through their bags again.”

Security measures undertaken at the courthouse last year include the manned single point of entrance and exit, the installation of a new multi-camera security system, the metal detector, handheld scanners and locked exterior doors.

“Now we are mostly up-to-date with standards,” Williams said, noting one of the safety measures recommended was that every courthouse have a security plan. Washington County’s was adopted July 1.

Deputy Jim Malone spends most of his work day manning the metal detector and said he believes the X-ray machine is a positive step.

“It will save a lot of time because we won’t have to go through everyone’s bags. It will make getting in and out quicker for everybody,” he said.

Right now, an average of 300 to 350 people go through the courthouse’s metal detector every day. When the courthouse is busy, such as when property taxes are due, two deputies have to man the metal detector as approximately 600 people came through the doors.

“(Having an X-ray) is safer for everybody,” Malone said. “People are getting used to (the other measures). They aren’t bringing in bags and backpacks like they used to.”

Dart resident Missy Schneider, who was visiting the courthouse Friday, said she was all for the new safety measure.

“I was all for this,” she said, gesturing toward the metal detector. “I think it was needed a long time ago.”

Williams said the sheriff’s office chose which X-ray machine to purchase, based on research from other counties. The unit will be to the right of the metal detector, replacing the tables where courthouse visitors put their metal items and phones and bags in plastic bins to be searched.

“The wires are already there (for the new machine),” Williams said.

His court administrator, Rae Ward, noted the new security measure was needed and it was good it could be purchased through state funding instead of through the county.

“I think if we have all this, we might as well have the X-ray,” said Marietta resident Mark Johnson, at the courthouse on Friday. “I think it’s sad we have to do this anymore. I think it will be fine once people are used to using it.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.