Courthouse security to be considered

Greene County assistant attorney Thomas Laehn is continuing his effort to move the county into the 21st century.

His first step was to insert computer technology into the county attorney’s office. That was accomplished with the purchase of ProLaw software in the fall. The case management software costs the county $6,000 annually. When it is fully implemented it could bring enough efficiencies to the office that it could again function with only one attorney and an office assistant, as it did before he was hired, Laehn said.

Courthouse east entrance. Previous discussion has been to leave only the east entrance open due to accessibility.

Laehn suggested the next step forward at the supervisors’ Jan. 18 meeting – installing security equipment at the courthouse.

According to Laehn, the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) and the Iowa State Bar Association recommend that counties have a security committee. The sheriff, the judges, the supervisors, and the county attorney should all be represented on the committee.

Security for the court functions would be the committee’s primary concern. Discussion topics would include installation of a metal detector; keeping two entrances locked, at least on days district court is in session; moving the magistrate court from the first to the third floor and securing only the third floor; and more.

“This is a public building and I like public buildings to be accessible to the public,” board chair John Muir said. “I’d rather address only events with the most potential to happen than lock down the whole courthouse.”

Laehn said the committee should consider accessibility, security, the beauty of the building, and functionality as a modern court facility. “If it comes down to consolidating courts, we want the Greene County courthouse to be the one where court continues to be held,” Laehn said.

Former sheriff Steve Haupert talked with the supervisors about security two years ago, suggesting secure entrances and a metal detector. The supervisors decided then to wait until after the Courthouse 100 celebration, as they didn’t want to detract from the courthouse’s historic beauty. The courthouse centennial was last October.

Laehn also talked with the supervisors about the process for filling a request for information from Steve Zimmerman. Zimmerman owns property adjacent to the County Road E-39 bridge near Ralston that was replaced in 2017. He was been critical of the process and earlier this month asked for many documents pertaining to how his concerns were handled and the actual construction of the bridge.

Laehn advised the supervisors at their Jan. 15 meeting to provide the requested documents “under the advice of counsel.”

As of the Jan. 18 meeting, Laehn had already spent two hours on the request. Auditor Jane Heun had spent an hour and county engineer Wade Weiss had spent two hours and anticipated spending at least another four hours of staff time between himself and assistant to the engineer Don Van Gilder.

Laehn also suggested the supervisors set a policy naming the cost of photocopying or printing hard copies of digital records. Per state law, the cost may be only the actual cost incurred and cannot be set to include staff time.

Laehn planned to have the documents ready for Zimmerman to review by Jan. 25.

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