The county sheriff might soon disregard an order to provide beefed-up security at the Utah County Courthouse unless the County Commission approves a request for more money to fund that security, Sheriff Dave Bateman said.
A supplemental budget proposal says the sheriff's department needs $66,734 this year to provide court security - money the department doesn't have."I'd appreciate it if you'd be sensitive to the fact that our budget is not a bottomless pit," Bateman said during Monday's commission meeting. "Meanwhile, we'll continue to operate as we're doing, unless our funding runs out."
Security was tightened last fall after 4th District judges issued an order saying increased security is "an imperative need." But without adequate funding, Bateman said, he may have to start ignoring the order.
"I'm not funded for it," he said. "And absent that funding, I would test that order. Without a supplemental appropriation, we're not going to be able to do it."
As a result of the order, ground-floor windows in the courthouse were secured and all but the building's east doors were closed. The courthouse's north, south and west doors were converted to fire exits, and a metal detector was installed at the east entrance.
In addition, judges have asked for bailiff services when they conduct court proceedings at Utah State Hospital. The bailiffs are needed to address what Bateman called "security breaches."
A report by Ron Fernstedt, sheriff's sergeant over court and county facilities security, says increased security has paid off.
"We have been successful in detecting weapons that were being taken into the court facility," his report says. "The court security deputy has also made numerous arrests on persons with outstanding warrants and has intervened between persons who it appeared were about to create disturbances."
The request to fund additional court security officers, Fernstedt said, "reflects the minimum needed to provide an adequate level of security."
A change in the Utah Code last year stipulates that the state must reimburse the sheriff's department for salaries and benefits of court bailiffs, who provide courtroom security. However, "the county shall assume costs related to equipment and training of bailiffs, and security services."
Commissioners question whether that means state reimbursements will be limited to bailiff salaries and benefits.
"My interpretation of the statute is that it's the county's responsibility," Bateman said.
Commission Chairman Brent Morris said he wants to wait until lease negotiations on courthouse use are completed between the county and state - which now runs district courts statewide - before approving the proposed security budget. The sheriff suggested that the county figure in security costs when determining how much to charge the state for lease of the building.
Bateman told commissioners that the department must purchase a new metal detector because the existing one - built for the summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984 and later purchased by the sheriff's department - is obsolete. Cost would be around $4,500.
"We need to buy a new one because the manufacturer no longer makes and stocks parts for this particular model," he said.