Our View: Time to make a ruling
Craig If the Moffat County Courthouse were a private business, it would make a great mall.
It hosts a multitude of government agencies, and it also has a plethora of doors to enter the building, creating a nice one-stop shopping experience for those seeking to fill their government needs.
But, from a security standpoint, it offers something else - a problem.
Why, you ask?
Although many of the operations inside the building are your average run-of-the-mill government agencies at work, having the Combined Courts creates a unique issue.
People at the courthouse often are in conflict, either with law enforcement in criminal cases or with each other in civil cases.
Sometimes the people involved in these conflicts have documented substance abuse problems, and sometimes people are under distress, going through life-changing experiences, such as divorce.
In short, verbal conflict is part of the scenery. But what do we have in place in case verbal conflict escalates?
The answer: A panic button, and deputies at court upon request. These are some steps in the right direction, but that's it.
It offers no preventative measures from someone bringing in weapons, and offers him or her plenty of escape routes or, God forbid, other targets.
The Moffat County Combined Courts have asked the County Commission to address this issue, asking the commissioners to provide entry-level screening, such as having people run through some sort of metal detector process.
The reasoning: To keep weapons out of the courtroom, as well as create a sense of security.
Has violence in the Moffat County Courthouse been a problem to date? Not really. Could it be a problem in the future? For some, it's not a matter of if, but a matter of when.
This statement is not meant to create a culture of fear - and perhaps it's overstated - but the point is that it's better to be proactive than reactive. There is a fine line between living in a state of fear and living in a state of security.
The Commission is looking at these issues, Commissioner Tom Gray said, and board members are engaged in the process of figuring out how to handle it.
Currently, the commission is looking at no-cost or low-cost solutions first to help deal with these issues. From there on, it is a process of evaluation.
Gray said it's a matter of calculating the risk, the cost and the negative effects that can occur when limiting access to government agencies.
These are valid points. The county should do its due diligence in assessing this situation.
Manning an entry-level screening station is not cheap, and one can question if that is worth the cost. And if an entry-level screening station were put in place, it would likely limit the number of entrances into the courthouse; thus, bottlenecking access to the courthouse and agencies within.
But there are options.
Recently, a statewide commission that distributes grants to help communities provide safety at public buildings, such as courthouses, released its first grant, and while the first round of grant applications ended Friday, money from this commission still will be available in the future.
Or perhaps the situation should be looked at differently. It has been suggested that it might be more cost effective to build a new courthouse at the Public Safety Center.
This certainly is an option to explore if the funding is there. The building is properly staffed, and it would greatly reduce the cost of travel.
Is it the perfect idea? Maybe. Maybe not.
But it is a proactive idea, and after the all the calculations are done, the editorial board hopes a proactive approach is the one the commissioners take.
It's time to make a strong ruling in favor of courthouse security.