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Lee County Still Talking Security

The North Lee County Courthouse in Fort Madison

The Lee County Courthouse Security Committee continues to make progress on a plan to improve security at some key county buildings.  The committee, which is comprised of employees from more than a half dozen departments, met for about 90 minutes Thursday morning in Keokuk.

The focus at this point is on three buildings:

  • The South Lee County Courthouse (Keokuk)
  • The North Lee County Courthouse (Fort Madison)
  • The North Lee County Office Building (Fort Madison)

Sheriff Jim Sholl told the committee it's important to not let perfection get in the way of progress.
"This committee is never going to fool-proof building security," said Sholl.

Thursday's discussion covered a wide range of options:

  • Hiring Private Security Guards
  • Installing Panic Alarms
  • Locking Interior Doors
  • Adding Bullet-Proof Glass

In the end, two ideas gained the most traction with the committee:

  • Reducing The Number of Public Entrances
  • Installing Additional Security Cameras
The South Lee County Courthouse in Keokuk

Public Entrances

The ideal model appears to be the courthouse in Fort Madison, which has one public entrance and one handicapped-accessible entrance, which is monitored by building staff.  By contrast, the courthouse in Keokuk has two public entrances (N. 7th Street & Blondeau Street) and one, unmonitored handicapped-accessible entrance.  And there are nearly a half-dozen options for entering the office building in Fort Madison.

County Auditor Denise Fraise said having that many entrances makes it that much easier for someone to enter the building undetected.  She said that will be addressed in the next two weeks.

"We are going to start June 1 closing the Blondeau Street entrance (in Keokuk)," said Fraise. "And at the North Lee County (Office Building), we are going to close the east entrance (at the edge) of the parking lot."

The Maintenance Department said it already has plans to upgrade the handicapped-accessible entrance in Keokuk.

Security Cameras

Supervisor Gary Folluo said Thursday it's not just a matter of knowing who enters a building.

"We need to know who is in the buildings AND where they are in the buildings," said Folluo.  He said that means having more video cameras inside the buildings, monitoring hallways and "blind spots."
He told members of the Maintenance Department that "some (video cameras) should be for viewing while others should be for recording."

Fraise hopes to present bids for the video cameras to the Lee County Board of Supervisors before the Courthouse Security Committee meets again June 4.  Cost is expected to be a major factor in how security is upgraded.  At least one person mentioned during the meeting that it's easier to secure a new building than three aging structures.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.