By Joe Beck - firstname.lastname@example.org
Security improvements at the Warren County Courthouse entered the final phase of a project spanning more than a decade Monday with the arrival of work crews to begin site preparations.
The $146,000 project calls for a widening of the sidewalk on Royal Avenue in front of the courthouse, installation of steel posts along the improved sidewalks and removal and replacement of hedges and shrubbery near the main entrance.
Deputy County Administrator Bob Childress said he expected the project to be completed by the first week of October. Courthouse business hours will remain the same: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The project will close some sections of the sidewalk and courthouse grounds during construction. Signs will be installed to guide visitors around the work areas. The project also is expected to delay traffic on Royal Avenue during times of the day when work crews are widening the sidewalks, according to the press release.
"The county is excited to finally get this job started," Childress stated in the press release. "The completed project will not only improve the security of the facility but will make access along Royal Avenue much more convenient and safer for visitors to the courthouse."
In an interview Monday, Childress said the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorism attacks were the catalyst for the improvements that began with the closing of the entrance to the courthouse from Main Street, the installation of a metal detector and the appointment of a security detail to manage passage through the metal detector.
"What that has allowed us to do is give secure access to the facility at a much higher level," Childress said.
The installation of surveillance cameras inside and outside the courthouse followed.
Childress cited several reasons for the latest improvements.
Removal and replacement of the hedges and shrubbery will make it easier for security personnel to detect the presence of suspicious people nearing the courthouse, he said.
"Right now, hedges grow three to four feet tall close to the adjacent front doors to allow someone to hide if they want," he said. "They could crouch down behind the hedges and make it almost to the front door of the facility before they were detected."
A wider sidewalk will make it easier for pedestrians to come and go from the building and allow for the installation of steel posts designed to bend, but not break if hit by a motor vehicle headed toward the entrance of the courthouse, Childress said.
"They will be spaced such that a vehicle will not get between them," he said, adding, "They will be designed and made to fit with the historic courthouse" and existing steel posts.
Childress said he spoke Monday with the construction crew from Lantz Construction Co. of Broadway about the importance of leaving open parts of the sidewalk where they aren't working.
The area blocked off by the crew Monday was "more than I had envisioned and what I had agreed to," Childress said. "I had a conversation with them this afternoon about not blocking off more than they need to."