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Hancock courthouse in line for upgrade

September 6, 2013
By STEPHEN HUBA - Special to the Herald-Star , The Herald-Star

NEW CUMBERLAND - The Hancock County Courthouse may have a new secure entrance, complete with a walk-through metal detector and an X-ray machine, by the end of the year.

On Thursday, Hancock County commissioners accepted a bid from Trushel Construction of Weirton to build a new entrance and install the security equipment for $106,800. Trushel was the lowest of four bidders and had the shortest construction period, said Robert Vidas, executive director for the county's Office of Technology and Communications.

Vidas said the construction periods in the bids ranged from the 30 days to 120 days.

"We'd like to have it done by the end of the year, but it'll depend on our start date," Vidas said.

Starting date for the entrance renovation project depends on how soon the security equipment can be ordered and shipped, and how long the construction work will take, Vidas said. If it looks like the project will interfere with early voting, the work may have to wait until after the election, he said.

Part of the new entrance will occupy space currently used by the voter registration office and early voting area, which were moved next to the main entrance last year.

Early voting for the Nov. 9 special election begins on Oct. 28 and continues through Nov. 6, said Hancock County Clerk George Foley. The only item on the ballot is the renewal of an excess levy for Hancock County Schools.

The renovation will include the construction of a lighted awning outside the entrance, construction of a new vestibule, reconfiguration of interior partitions and doorways and modifications to the plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems, Vidas said.

Similar to the setup in Columbiana County and other surrounding courthouses, the Hancock County Courthouse entrance will include an X-ray machine, a walk-through metal detector, additional cameras and security personnel.

Plans developed by LBRA Architects call for the courthouse entrance to be extended to the left of the current doorway, into the area now used for early voting. There, visitors will encounter armed guards who will ask them to put their belongings - including briefcases, purses and backpacks - through an X-ray machine.

While the items are being checked, visitors will be asked to step through a metal detector. If the alarm sounds, visitors also will be checked with a hand-held scanner before going through a second set of doors and into the main courthouse hallway.

The security equipment will be paid for with a $120,000 grant from the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Vidas said.

Also Thursday, commissioners approved another part of the new courthouse security system - the hiring of part-time officers to staff the entrance. The officers were recruited by Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher, who wants retired law enforcement officers to fill certain positions currently held by full-time deputies.

Fletcher recommended the hiring of 11 officers to work part time as courtroom bailiffs and courthouse security officers - James Benadetto, Richard Cutone, Thomas Dodson, Joseph Gala, Jimmie George, Ronald Haggerty, Jon Phillips, David Popish, Richard Sherensky, Timothy Wansack and Denzel Wilson.

The officers will begin two days of training on Oct. 8 in Charleston.

"I'm quite pleased with the way this project is turning out," Fletcher said. "I'm pleased that there were this many people interested in working for us."

Fletcher noted that the bailiffs and security personnel will be armed.

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