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Minnesota counties receive funds for courthouse security

WILLMAR — Big Stone, Kandiyohi, Meeker, Pope, Redwood, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties are among 57 Minnesota counties to be awarded grant funding for the implementation of courthouse safety and security measures.

The grants, totaling $1 million, were announced Thursday by the Minnesota Judicial Branch.

The money will help fund a variety of security enhancements at courthouses across the state, such as installing or upgrading door locks and cameras, replacing aging security equipment and installing bullet-resistant glass at public service counters. Some of the grant recipients also will use the money to conduct professional security assessments of their county courthouse or provide security training for courthouse personnel.

Kandiyohi County plans to use its grant to purchase a portable X-ray machine to enhance security at the courthouse in Willmar.

The courthouse has had security measures in place for several years, but Sheriff Dan Hartog said it's important to stay current with needs and technology.

"We just want to work at keeping it upgraded," he said.

An advisory panel oversaw the application and award process.

In all, the advisory panel received grant applications from 59 of Minnesota's 87 counties. Requests totaled $3.5 million, more than three times the amount of money available.

Of the 57 counties to receive a grant award, 24 received their full requested amount and 33 received partial awards. Each of the counties also must provide a dollar-for-dollar match either in cash or in-kind services.

The grant funds come from a $1 million appropriation by the Legislature in 2016 to establish the Safe and Secure Courthouse Initiative, a statewide effort to systematically improve security at courthouses across the state.

The initiative grew out of a legislative proposal brought forward by the Courthouse Security Workgroup, a statewide coalition of county and justice system partners convened by Chief Justice Lori Gildea in 2014. The workgroup included representatives from the Minnesota Judicial Branch, the Association of Minnesota Counties, the Minnesota Sheriffs Association, the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, the Minnesota Board of Public Defense and the Minnesota Inter-County Association.

The goal is to better protect the Minnesotans who enter local courthouses each day to appear before the court, access government services and fulfill their duties as citizens and taxpayers.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at http://healthbeat.areavoices.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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