County considering armed guards at courthouse

Sheriff Richard Bates and two of his deputies took the first steps in proposing changes for courthouse security at Tuesday’s meeting of the Marengo County Commission.

Lewis Bailey, who is in charge of courthouse security, and Randy Sanders, chief investigator, presented the suggestions, stressing that whatever plans are agreed upon must also be approved by Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway.

The proposals came about after a shooting in July in front of the county’s detention center.

“We believe that an armed security is more beneficial to everyone than the security that’s in place now,” said Bailey. “We have had situations where armed security is necessary for the courthouse, the office building and its surroundings.”

The proposal calls for armed security at the main entrance and a patrolling unit for both the inside and outside of the courthouse and its annex.

“I always believe it is better to be proactive and reactive,” Bailey continued.

Sanders said the proposal also includes hiring two deputies certified to be armed that would replace the security currently at the courthouse. There would be a greater expense, although he could not put a dollar figure to the personnel.

“We’ve got too many people who work in the courthouse who don’t feel secure,” Bailey said.

The commissioners took the matter under advisement and will study it further when they meet to determine the county budget later this month. The budget meeting was set for Wednesday, August 27 at 5 p.m.

Sheriff Bates also made a point-by-point rebuttal to the Grand Jury report presented at the July meeting.

The request for improvements on two roads in the county – one public and one private – left residents of both unsatisfied with the lack of county action.

The Rev. Earnest Eirby, speaking for residents of Southern Pine Road in District 4, asked if some 2.4 miles could be paved. Since the county doesn’t have the money to pay for the project, estimated at $1.9 million, all commissioners could do was promise to keep the road maintained.

Alex Jones, speaking for landowners along Spearmint Road, asked if the commission could maintain it and repair the bridge on the road.

Since Spearmint is a private road, the commissioners told Jones they could do nothing to help.

At the request of Ken Atkins, county engineer, the commission approved a bid of $241,594 from Mike Hoffman’s Equipment Service of Mobile for an above-ground fuel tank at the county shop.

The new tank will replace below-ground tanks installed in 1991.

Atkins also received approval for the purchase of two small dump trucks through the state bid process to replace two that have been put out of service.

Kevin McKinney, EMA director, received approval for the THIRA (Threats, Hazards, Identification and Risk Assessment) developed in response to a list of objectives sent by FEMA that the county must meet to maintain funding.

The 93-page report identifies the threats of both natural and manmade disasters to the county and interruptions in the delivery of services.

In other action the commissioners approved:

  • A user fee CD rate of .75 percent for six months from Sweet Water State Bank
  • A wage increase to $10 an hour for librarian Sarah Dailey who has taken on more duties.
  • The closing of Deep Creek Road in District 5.