By MONICA LUNDQUIST
BACKUS — Cass County Board authorized Central Services Director Tim Richardson to seek quotes to begin installing several courthouse security improvements Tuesday.
Upgrading security cameras and monitors for the original courthouse and annex, the law enforcement center and Health, Human and Veterans Services building is expected to cost between $25,000 and $35,000. One camera on each floor of the land department building at Backus also is planned.
The new cameras will rotate, tilt, zoom, provide color images and record images on DVR.
The open stairway on the north side of the old courthouse will be enclosed and sealed from public use. Employees and judges will access that stairway with key cards. The public will be directed to use the south stairway or elevator in the law enforcement center to reach upper old courthouse floors.
Lobbies for court administration and county attorney offices will be expanded into the adjacent hallways and made more secure.
Bank teller safety glass will be installed above the current open counters at offices in the courthouse annex. Gates for entry into those offices will be key lockable from the inside.
Two more security lights will be added to the seven currently around the courthouse exterior.
There are fire doors between the courthouse and law enforcement center and between the old courthouse and annex. Those close automatically during a fire. The ones between the law enforcement center and courthouse are programmed to be closed and locked weekends.
Richardson recommended that the inter-courthouse doors also should be closed and locked weekends.
County Attorney Christopher Strandlie informed the board Tuesday he has chosen not to take advantage of newly passed state legislation that allows county attorneys and their assistants to carry firearms.
Strandlie’s office policy will allow his assistants to carry a weapon with a permit outside the courthouse, but not within it.
Strandlie said, because there is a law enforcement presence in a connecting building, he does not see the need for personnel in his office to carry additional weapons. Also, the sheriff staffs courtrooms with a bailiff and, sometimes, deputies.
When Strandlie has been concerned about a specific individual, he said the sheriff has provided extra deputies to keep his offices and the courtrooms safe.
Richardson informed the board he no longer will need to have a separate room built in the hallway between the courthouse and law enforcement center for court records.
Amy Turnquist, court administrator, explained that Cass is one of nine counties chosen for a pilot project to make court records electronic.
Hennepin and Ramsey Counties have had optional e-filing for civil cases. This worked well enough that e-filing for civil cases will become mandatory there July 1.
In Cass, all new civil and criminal cases will convert to e-filing first, Turnquist said, followed by employees scanning old paper files into the electronic system. When the scanning is complete, the county no longer will need to retain the paper files now taking up a third of one probation office.
Turnquist estimated the complete transition will take about 18 months.
Strandlie estimated the software upgrades his office will need to switch to electronic filing will cost about $17,000.