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Improved security planned for Kandiyohi County courthouse

Security at the Kandiyohi County Courthouse in Willmar will be beefed up in the next month with additional cameras throughout the building and an armed deputy located at the main door. Tribune photoby Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- Security at the Kandiyohi County Courthouse in Willmar will be beefed up in the next month with additional cameras throughout the building and an armed deputy located at the main door.

The County Board of Commissioners agreed this week to allocate $16,000 to the project, with $4,000 coming from forfeiture money generated from criminal activities. The remaining funds will come from the building fund.

Sheriff Dan Hartog said the current security system at the Kandiyohi County Courthouse, which includes metal detectors and an unarmed corrections officer at the door to inspect bags and briefcases, is better than some in the state but said changes are needed to increase safety.

County Administrator Larry Kleindl said the improvements were in the works before the shooting in December of two people, including the Cook County Attorney, at the courthouse in Grand Marais.

One of the improvements is the addition of a security camera in the front lobby of the County Attorney's Office, which has a separate entrance in a wing of the courthouse.

Kandiyohi County Attorney Jenna Fischer said Kandiyohi County is "in a much better position" than other counties in terms of security but that her office is lacking some protective measures.

Fischer said there's a greater chance of dying in a car crash on the way home from work than being shot on the job, but said the improvements will provide added security for her staff and the public that need the services of the county attorney.

The most significant change that the public will notice is the addition of an armed deputy who will be located at a new security station at the main entrance door to the courthouse, which is the only way to enter the court administration or courtrooms.

There's currently a station and unarmed officer to the left of the metal detector at the door. The second officer will be located on the right side of the metal detector.

Hartog said the second officer is currently located in a security station on the second floor of the courthouse where a bank of security cameras are monitored.

That station will be now relocated to the main floor entrance. The officer will assist in conducting searches when there are a large number of people entering the courthouse for hearings, Hartog said.

In other action, the commissioners were told that higher than expected out-of-home placement costs in 2011 has resulted in a $500,000 budget shortfall.

Family Services Director Jay Kieft said it's always difficult to predict expenditures for programs that deal with families, legal issues, therapy and child safety. Kieft said the total of fees for providing out-of-home placement for children last year was $400,000 more than expected.

That, combined with delayed revenue from a state program, created the half-million dollar shortfall.

He said there's more than $5 million in the family service budget reserve fund that will be used to fill the gap.

Kieft said he hopes that new efforts by the county attorney to implement restorative justice and circle sentencing programs for youth may result in reduced out-of-home placements and reductions in other complicated and expensive intervention measures in the future.

The commissioners also approved a contract with the Willmar wastewater treatment facility for treatment of liquid leachate that's collected at the county sanitary landfill.

The county had been transporting the waste to St. Paul for treatment, but the product can be now processed at Willmar's new wastewater treatment facility. The reduced transportation costs are estimated to save the county $50,000 to $60,000 a year.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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