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Security upgrades at Clay Co. courthouse a costly concern

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Updated: 7/08/2013 10:37 pm
GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- There's a plan to fix security holes at the Clay County courthouse and the costly move could put other services on the chopping block.

More than 160,000 people pass through security at the Clay County courthouse each year.

There's no shortage of eyes keeping surveillance on the activity outside, either.

But Sheriff Rick Beasler tells Action News, that wasn't always the case.

"That building up until now has not been secure. We couldn't tell you who comes and goes at night," said Sheriff Beasler.

Prior to July 1, courthouse employees and attorneys did not have to go through any security to get inside.

The issue came to light after an attorney walked into the courthouse with a gun in his briefcase.

To fix security holes, Chief Judge Donald Moran issued an administrative order "as a result of several firearms nearly entering the building by unauthorized individuals."

It mandates all employees must now get screened just like visitors. And staff a security guard 24 hours, seven days a week.

Action News has learned, around-the-clock-security will cost a major chunk of taxpayer dollars.

"I don't know that I can absorb that. We're going to have to," said county commissioner Ronnie Robinson.

According to the county's finance manager, Clay County set aside $63,000 for courthouse security.

Now, the cost will run about $110,000 more, coming in at a total of $173,000 for the upcoming fiscal year.

"It's a possibility it could cost somebody a job, it's a possibility I couldn't give another service or maybe even have to close a library," said Robinson.

Multiple agencies, including the State Attorney's Office and Public Defender's Office are housed at the courthouse and use the courthouse overnight and on weekends.

Reason enough, Sheriff Beasler says, to keep a constant guard on this courthouse door.

"Whether someone might bring a weapon in and leave it and it could be picked up by someone the next day."

County commissioners will take up the budget issue next week.

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