For the week of August 26 thru September 1, 1998  

Commissioners get the buzz on metal detector

Express Staff Writer

26det.gif (16083 bytes)This new metal detector protects the entrance to the Kramer Judicial Building in Hailey. (Express photo by Willy Cook)

It took a field trip to the Kramer Judicial Building in Hailey to convince the Blaine County Commissioners that a security-enhancing metal detector project is worth completing.

"It’s useless," was Commissioner Mary Ann Mix’s initial response before visiting the 300 hulking pounds of gray metal detector plunked in the middle of the hallway outside county courtrooms on Monday.

"I really don’t know how it’s resolving any of the security issues."

However, conversations with judicial building workers, including judges, attorneys, clerks and the bailiff, changed the commissioners’ minds to a degree that they agreed to buy several panes of safety glass and hardware to complete the metal detector project.

As it stands, the system could be bypassed by even the most simple of means, as demonstrated by the commissioners surprisingly criminal minds.

"We’re not trying to be critical," Commissioner Len Harlig said. "We’re prepared to support this."

Each commissioner present spouted impromptu methods to crack the metal detector system, much to Blaine County Bailiff Russ Poigni’s distaste.

Just that morning, Poigni located five knives with the machine. He said each was larger than what one might consider an innocuous pocket knife.

"It’s a deterrent," Poigni explained. "Even when I’m not there I can hear the metal detector from the courtrooms."

He added that panic buttons behind the clerks’ window which alert the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office and emergency alarms that directly signal his pager are sufficient back-ups.

"It’ll never be totally secure, it’ll just be more secure than before," District Judge James May said in the hall.

"[When] trying some gang guys, if you know everybody in the courthouse is unarmed you’re always more comfortable," Magistrate Judge Robert Elgee told the commissioners.

It was eventually agreed that though nothing would completely thwart a person bent on doing harm, the system would discourage what Harlig called "the casual nut case" and is worth the investment.

The safety glass will force all entering the building through a single door on the north side of the building and then through the metal detector.

The door adjacent to the entryway will be the only immediate exit.

Double doors on the south side of the building will be alarm-triggered emergency exits.

Signs in English and Spanish reading "Notice--deadly weapons prohibited" will hang at the entrance.

With the commissioners’ approval, Poigni will begin finishing the project immediately.


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