Clerk, judge seek expanded courthouse security

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County Circuit Court Clerk Sarona Irvin says the courthouse needs better security and the sheriff and a judge agree.

Irvin voiced her concerns about security in a Jan. 6 letter to Sheriff Timothy Carter whose agency provides bailiffs at the courthouse. In the letter, Irvin states that she, Circuit Judge Dennis Hupp and Lonnie Sherfey agreed the courthouse needed enhanced security for staff. Irvin said Friday she did not feel comfortable divulging her specific concerns about courthouse security but acknowledged that the building needs amenities similar to those found at the newer district court facility.

County Administrator Mary T. Price has not yet presented her proposed budget to the Board of Supervisors.

In a Jan. 5 letter to Price, Hupp stated he supports Carter’s request for funds in the next budget to cover additional personnel to enhance security at the courthouse, including more deputies to monitor the metal detector at the front lobby during all business hours. Hupp points out that improvements would bring security at the courthouse to a level similar to that at the district court facility. The judge noted that officers provide excellent security while court is in session.

“We have been most fortunate that there have been no incidents where any courthouse personnel have been harmed, but the current state of civil discourse throughout this country suggests that we may be pressing our luck to continue our current practice,” Hupp states.

Hupp’s letter goes on to include his recommendations for added security.

Irvin also asked for two more full-time employees in her fiscal 2018 budget request. The Compensation Board would cover $280,392 toward total salaries in the circuit court, excluding pay for the two requested positions. A county allocation of $99,746 would supplement the salaries of seven employees and cover the pay for each of the new positions, according to Irvin’s request.

The sheriff outlined his concerns about a lack of court security staff to handle duties at the new district courthouse in each of the budget submissions for fiscal years 2011 through 2017. Carter states in his 2018 budget request that the county has yet to resolve the issue.

“The various Boards of Supervisors have seemingly been indifferent to the public safety of these facilities, the civilian and law enforcement staff working in them, and the public who does business in them,” Carter states. “The county has failed to provide the funding to allow me to hire the adequate number of personnel.”

Carter’s budget request includes salaries for 12, full-time court service deputies. The courthouse security fund would cover two, full-time deputies’ salaries. The state would cover six deputies and the county would pay for the four new positions.

The sheriff’s budget request also calls for roughly $2.57 million to cover salaries for his sworn officers and civilian employees. Carter states that the need for two additional deputies as recommended by the recent staffing study remains though the county did not fund the positions in the fiscal 2015 budget.

Carter requested almost $30,000 in his 2018 budget to cover the salary of a part-time animal-control officer, stating that the two deputies in these positions remain busy but cannot handle the demands in the county. A recent study of his agency recommends the addition of the part-time position. In the event the county does not address the part-time position, Carter recommends the budget include funding for an average of eight overtime hours per week.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com