Visitors to the Delta County Courthouse can expect new security measures beginning in January. The added security precautions will affect the west side of the second level that houses administrative staff, commissioner’s offices and boardroom and a large conference room.
“With the increase in criminal cases overloading the two existing courtrooms, the courts have mandated more courtroom space. The county is obligated to pay for the additional space and to be able to do that they felt that economically it would be more feasible to move the additional courtrooms down into the second floor of the courthouse,” Delta County Sheriff Mark Taylor said. “There will be a lot of changes in the next few years to try and accommodate the additional space the courts are mandating.”
For years the secured third level of the courthouse has housed the district court, clerk of the court and county court; however, due to the increased workload the courts will begin using the second level to conduct jury selections and trials on an as-needed basis.
“Towards the end of 2019 Delta County began getting requests from the 7th Judicial District for additional space due to multiple trials being set on the same day. We are already seeing the same thing happening for 2020,” Taylor said.
Citizens entering through the main lobby to access the treasurer, assessor and clerk and recorder’s offices will not face the additional security measures; however, Taylor said individuals with concealed carry permits will not be allowed to bring firearms near the secured area during jury selection or trial days.
“Even though you have a concealed carry permit guns are not allowed in the courtrooms so, they will not be allowed on the second floor on those days and never on the third floor,” Taylor sai. “However, they can still have the concealed carry weapon in the main lobby area around the treasurer, assessor and clerk and recorder’s offices.”
While the courtrooms on the third level will use both a walk through metal detector and a new bag scanner, the second floor will have one movable walk through metal detector located in the hallway between the restrooms and the accounting office.
Captain Daniel Cano, head of court security and detentions, said deputies will check individuals entering the secured area using the portable metal detector while bags will be hand checked using a flashlight. He said only clear zip lock bags will be permitted and jurors should already know what items are prohibited before they arrive.
After individuals pass through the security checkpoint, they will be allowed to access the restrooms and return however, if they leave the second floor for any reason they will be re-screened by deputies. Anyone leaving the second floor via the fire exit doors will have to re-enter the building through the main lobby and go through security again at the checkpoint.
Taylor said the courts will be responsible to place signs in the main lobby directing patrons to either the correct floor for jury selection or trials. In addition to the inside changes at the courthouse, the sheriff said there’s another issue that has county officials looking for answers.
“Probably the biggest issue besides people inside the building will be parking around the facility,” Taylor said. “We’ve talked about asking nearby businesses to assist us in securing the extra parking spaces. We would just like to ask people to be mindful of the added volume of people and vehicles around the complex during these days.”
Jury selection days are scheduled for Tuesdays with the possibility of trials taking place any day of the week. The first trial scheduled to use the second level is set for Jan. 21.
Because of court scheduling, Delta County Commissioners meetings set for the first and third Tuesdays of the month will likely move to the first and third Wednesdays, according to Darrell Place-Wise, Delta County public information officer.
Commissioners have already rescheduled their first board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 7, to Wednesday, Jan. 8, where they are expected to approve the new Board of Commissioners meeting schedule. She said they will also work on educating county staff on what doors they can access during court days.
“I just think that Commissioner Suppes would like to reiterate that this is something that is being mandated by the courts and is not the county’s choice,” Place-Wise said.