Following a series of regular Safety Committee meetings over the past two years, Klickitat County staff and officials have agreed and disagreed on a number of initiatives designed to enhance safety for county staff and the public conducting business in county facilities.
Several months ago the committee, which is comprised of county department heads and chaired by Klickitat County Commissioner Rex Johnston, approved the purchase of panic buttons for county offices. The buttons, which are on order from an Ohio security company and scheduled for installation “in about two months,” according to Johnston, will provide county staff the ability to silently and quickly alert the sheriff’s office of the need for assistance with the push of a button.
Metal detectors, which would screen visitors entering the County Courthouse for metal (guns or weapons), have also been a major topic of committee discussion for some time and been agreed on by the committee as an important security purchase. The rub at this juncture of the process is finding a cost-effective way to purchase and staff the detectors.
“We are looking at $22,000 to $23,000 just to purchase the equipment, and then there is the issue of three FTE (full-time equivalent) employees to man them. We say we can’t afford it doing it this way, but we are still looking into other options, such as a portable detector which could be moved and utilized just when the courts are in session,” says Johnston.
Johnston says he has personally interviewed every department head with the exception of County Treasurer Dani Burton, asking their opinions on the right to bear arms in county buildings.
“Every department head, with the exception of Dani Burton, whom I haven’t had a chance to speak with, and [Klickitat County Superior Court] Judges Altman and Shamek think it would be fine to allow concealed weapons in the courthouse. I am of the opinion that those who take their personal safety into their own hands are those who are prepared to deal with the unexpected,” Johnston says.
However, the committee defer-red to the two judges who contacted Johnston and said they wanted to continue the no-weapons policy in their courtrooms.
“Things have changed a great deal in the past couple of years; it’s gotten a little weird,” says Johns-ton. “I don’t see that as getting any better in the near future.”