Carroll County is tightening security at the county office building in Westminster by upgrading equipment and using Carroll County Sheriff’s Office deputies in overtime capacity to protect those who work in and visit the facility.
The Board of Commissioners on Thursday approved transferring $96,100 total from the Department of Public Works and from reserve funds to cover deputy overtime pay, while Public Works will devote approximately $23,200 of its budget to physical building improvements.
A security team, consisting of several county departments including the Sheriff’s Office, Information Technology, Public Safety, Risk Management, and Public Works, was formed a few months ago to assess the security of the county office building, County Administrator Roberta Windham said.
Deputy Director of Public Works Jason Green said after Thursday’s meeting the team was formed due to “recent news events” across the country. Green said there were no incidents at the county office building that prompted the formation of a security team.
“We want to try to be proactive to make sure nothing like that happens here,” Green said in an interview.
As part of this process, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security walked through the 225 N. Center St. facility and offered suggestions for improvement, according to Windham. Green said the county requested the walk-through from Homeland Security, which did not charge the county for the service. From this report and other suggestions made by team members, the Carroll County Government Security Team assembled a list of recommendations for the commissioners.
Deputies to guard county office building
Building security officers (BSO) will be replaced by sheriff’s deputies.
Currently, three former circuit court bailiffs are paid by Public Works as BSOs to provide security for the county office building, according to Deputy Director Doug Brown.
In order to keep the BSOs and address the needs identified in the security evaluation, additional training would be required, Brown said. These officers are part-time contractual employees, according to Brown.
Brown presented three options to the commissioners for security guards: continue with the current BSO model and provide additional funding for training and certifications, enhance the current BSO model by hiring additional contractual personnel, or use the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office to provide security in overtime capacity.
Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, asked Sheriff Jim DeWees if he has enough officers to cover the building.
“I feel confident we’d be able to meet the need,” DeWees said.
Commissioners suggested a uniformed officer would provide a certain presence and using the deputies would ensure properly trained individuals are in place.
“A presence like this, to me, makes sense," Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said.
Rothstein said the sheriff’s deputies would serve as a deterrent.
“I have much more confidence in our sheriff’s department in providing the resources necessary ... than in building up a contractual force,” Rothstein said.
Weaver said it was “sad,” but necessary that the county provide such security, that it is a “sign of the times.”
“It’s not about protecting us, it’s about protecting the folks that work here,” Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said.
Wantz recalled a time during tax payment season when people became “extremely belligerent.”
In order to cover the cost of overtime for sheriff’s deputies, commissioners approved transferring $47,900 from the Public Works budget and $48,200 from the general budget’s reserves to law enforcement, according to an agenda-related document.
Brown estimated it would take two to four weeks to make the transition.
The most expensive physical improvement on the horizon is a security notification system that would integrate with the current system, Genetec, for an estimated $17,500, Green said.
“This would allow or enhance our ability to provide notification to the proper personnel if an incident occurs here at the county office building,” Green said.
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There are currently 30 to 40 notification systems spread out in strategic locations through the building, according to Green.
Additionally, the commissioners authorized Public Works to use $5,000 for a visitor management system. Currently, visitors sign in at the front desk by presenting identification and then receive a visitor badge to wear while in the building. When people leave, they return the badge to the front desk.
Under the new system, a person’s ID would be scanned and printed as a badge to wear as a sticker, Green said. The front desk person would also use the system to record who the visitor is going to see in the building and notify that person to let them know a visitor is on the way, according to Green.
Wantz expressed concern over privacy with this system. Green said the system can be set up to “purge” visitors’ personal information however often the county would like. Once it’s deleted, it is gone, Green said.
Green also suggested minor physical improvements that would cost about $700. This may take shape in hardware improvements to doors or adding tint to windows so occupants can see out but outsiders cannot see in, according to Green.
The security notification system, visitor management system, and minor physical upgrades are expected to cost $23,200l, which is provided for in the Public Works budget, Green said. He anticipates the minor physical upgrades will be complete in a few weeks, but it will take longer to make the software changes. The new visitor management system could take one to two months while the security notification system may take three to five months, Green said in an interview.
More extensive and expensive physical upgrades are also being considered for the future, though the cost for those would have to be included in the 2021 budget, according to Green.