Photo by George Lauby
Sheriff Jerome Kramer
Photo by Darla Golden
The south door of the courthouse
New “panic buttons” will be installed in county offices at the courthouse to improve security, and plans are taking shape for extensive improvements, including closing all the entrances except one.There are four courthouse entrances, one on each side of the building, where people currently freely come and go.
But Lincoln County Sheriff Jerome Kramer told the county commissioners Monday that, “The days of freely walking all around the courthouse are coming to an end.”
In recent months, three counters that were formerly open to the public -- motor vehicles as well as upstairs in county court -- have been walled off with wood or glass.
Armed guards are posted at courtroom doors when court is in session.
Nevertheless, Kramer said, “the (safety) situation is getting worse all the time.”
Under extensive new measures, both exterior and interior doors will be locked, Kramer said. Door lock cards would be issued to employees.
Entrance doors would remain open to such offices as the assessor and register of deeds, Kramer said, but interior doors would be locked.
Commissioner Joe Hewgley said after the meeting that all exterior entrances might be closed but one. That entrance could have additional security, such as a metal detector if not a posted guard, he said.
Tammy White, the commissioners’ assistant, is preparing a list of doors that will be locked as well as cost estimates. White is part of a committee that is recommending the changes.
Les Green, the director of electronic and internet services for both the city of North Platte and Lincoln County, plans to write the specifications for the door lock / card system. The commissioners agreed to accept bids for that system on May 8.
Meanwhile, new alarm buttons will be installed within a month that will alert 911 of an intruder.
Hewgley said that won’t be a major overhaul. Alarm buttons are already in place that alert the sheriff’s office about an intruder. However, deputies are not always immediately available. The new alarms will ring at the 911 dispatch center, so police can be alerted too.
Hewgley said the alarm button upgrade will not be overly expensive -- about $1,000 to install, plus about $30 a month.
However, he said the security system is in “a whole other league” financially.
Green said the card reader system would be somewhat similar to those at the hospital and the police station.
Also, card readers and locks would be installed at probation offices and the veterans service office, both of which are across the streets from the courthouse, White said.