Commissioners wrestle with second security decision

County Commissioners met with County Attorney Terri Johnson today in order to discuss upcoming budget-related issues generated by recent concealed carry legislation. House Bill 2052 amends several longstanding statutes, and these statutes present budget quandaries for Kansas counties.

Bourbon County recently applied for and received a 6 month exemption from HB 2052, but beyond that point, the county will have to implement potentially costly measures to remain exempt for the next 4 years.

Several suggestions were made to help solve the problem at hand, whether to implement adequate security to remain exempt from concealed carry in county buildings or let the law take its course. In any event, County Attorney Terri Johnson reported that concealed carry would be in effect with no exemptions in January 2018, unless legislation is reversed.

In the meantime, Bourbon County Commissioners must decide whether to implement security measures in the interim or take no action. “The way the law is written, you either take the signs down, allow the concealed carry in, or if you don’t wish to do that, then you have to provide adequate security,” Johnson said.

These security measures, however, would require additional staff and scanning equipment. Discussion centered around the expense that would be generated in securing the entire courthouse versus securing only one floor of the building. County Custodial Supervisor David Neville pointed out that the most effective way to prevent unlawful weapons from entering the courthouse would be to secure the front door of the building. “That would be the most effective by far,” said Commissioner Harold Coleman, “but it would also be the most expensive by far.” Despite the expense, Johnson reported that both Lynn and Miami Counties have implemented building security at the entrances for their buildings.

Johnson suggested securing just the 3rd floor of the courthouse, which contains the courtroom.“We as a county are responsible for the safety of the inmate, and for others,” Johnson said. If commissioners were to adopt this strategy, Johnson said that the county would “probably need another person” on duty, which would be less of an expense than the original proposal of hiring 3 new personnel, one for each courthouse floor. Johnson brought forward the idea that a deputy hired for courthouse security could also work for the Sheriff’s office when court was not in session. “If it’s going to cost taxpayer dollars,” Warren said, he would like to meet with the Chief Judge to discuss adequate security measures before any decisions are made.

Commissioner Barbara Albright brought up a logistics issue involving vacation time for the proposed deputy position. Sheriff Gray said that the county would be looking at a minimum of two armed guards for the 3rd floor, but that arming an existing county security official would reduce spending. “If you could incorporate the Bailiff, that would take away half of that cost,” said Gray.

According to Johnson, the county is exempt from any liability associated with the implementation of concealed carry in county buildings should the county decide to forgo the 4-year exemption. In addition, the bill states that jails, other law enforcement agencies and schools still have the authority to prohibit concealed carry in their buildings.

In addition, commissioners also met with County Public Works Director Marty Pearson in order to address ditching work. Warren suggested parking graders during dry weather in order to put those employees on other currently pressing tasks. “If we’ve got a grader just running his grader up and down the roads so he can keep his job, we’re not doing the right thing,” Warren said. “Dry weather’s the time that you ditch. I think we need to look at how we use our graders and maybe emphasize that we need to be ditching.”

Commissioner Harold Coleman asked about the process for ditching, to which Pearson replied that the county must report the coordinates at which they will be digging before they begin. “It would be great to see some ditches cleaned out,” said Commissioner Barbara Albright. Albright pointed out that the ditch by the Shead farm is one that needs to be done soon, to which Pearson agreed.

In other business:

  • Terry Sercer presented a rough version of the county budget,“For the most part I’ve used the 2013 budget to create the 2014 budget,” Sercer said.  “I have nothing on my agenda except to finish the budget in the next two weeks,” Sercer said. Sercer also mentioned that at the start of the process for last year’s budget, the mill levy was projected to rise 7+ mils, but the budget was pared down until there was no change in the mill levy from the past year. Sercer reported that the projected increase in the mill levy for 2014 was 6.7 mil, but that this number was expected to drop drastically as the budget nears its final form. “One year we started 10 mils, 11 mils over. This is a real rough,” Sercer said of the budget and current projected mill levy increase. “It’s always a heart attack when you first look at it.” Sercer reported that 4.6 mil of that projected rise was due to increased spending mandated by changes in expenses, such as KPERS going up 10% and an 8% projected rise in the cost of health insurance.
    However, Sercer reported that some areas of possible revenue that could reduce the estimated mill levy had not been factored in, such as revenue from tax delinquent properties.

6 thoughts on “Commissioners wrestle with second security decision”

  1. This has a simple solution. Instead of the county spending the money on the security measures, thus increasing the mill levy and in turn our property taxes, simply assess the cost of the extra security measures against the legislators living in Bourbon County that voted to approve the new law necessitating the security measures. Voila!

    1. The new law doesn’t require any additional spending on security measures. It simply says that if the court house is going to continue to allow people to bring in guns illegally, they also can’t bar people who met the requirements to legally carry a concealed gun.

  2. Based on the large number of counties who applied for exemptions and are planning on implementing security measures, I tend to think their precautionary stance is likely justified and based on a knowledge of the type of people who go through their doors in certain circumstances on a regular basis.

    The concept that the policy before all this this was “Only illegal gun carrying allowed” is the product of some sort of bizarre anti-logic.

    1. No it is a very logical conclusion. People who are planning on doing something illegal with their gun once they get in are not going to be deterred by a sign telling them that it is illegal to enter the building with a gun. So if you are worried about keeping out people who might shoot someone with their gun, the signs do nothing.

      So basically we currently have a system that only stops people who are intent on following the law from bringing in their gun. In light of that, the only people who can take a gun into the building are those who don’t care if they do something illegal. If you want to keep those people out, you need to put in metal detectors. But, if there wasn’t a need to keep those people out under the old law, why is it suddenly a need under the new law?

  3. What evidence is there that someone has illegally brought a gun into the courthouse prior to now? Allowing non-law enforcement people to carry inside the courthouse seems to be designed as a deterrent to a problem that didn’t exist to begin with.

    1. You are missing my point. If the goal is to provide a safe environment where someone cannot come in and shoot someone illegally, the current system of putting a sign on the door does nothing. Anyone who has any plan to shoot someone isn’t going to have their plan foiled because of the sign. So the current system with the exemption only prevents people who are trying to follow the law from bringing in a gun. I feel the threat of a shooting happening from someone who trying to follow the law is virtually non-existent compared to the threat from someone who doesn’t care what is legal or illegal. The law says, that if you aren’t going to take steps to prevent someone from bringing in a gun who has a high chance of shooting someone, you can’t make it illegal for a law abiding citizen who is willing to go through the training, background check, etc. and has virtually no chance of shooting someone from bringing in a gun for self defense.

      I think you are trying to point out that someone with a conceal and carry permit could potentially bring in their gun and shoot someone. You may be concerned that this increases the risk of having a shooter in the court house, but it doesn’t. If Bob is a conceal and carry permit holder and for some reason decides he wants to shoot someone in the court house, how do the different permutations of the law change the risk? Consider the scenario where it is legal for him to bring in his gun (due to his conceal and carry permit): He is able to bring in a gun and shoot someone. Consider the scenario under the exemption where it is illegal for him to bring in his gun, but there are no metal detectors: He is able to bring in his gun and shoot someone. The risk profile under each scenario is exactly the same.

      The one possible objection you might have would involve a scenario where a conceal and carry permit holder comes in with a gun and no intent of shooting someone, but somehow goes crazy and starts trying to kill people. If that were to happen it might seem as if the law might have kept him from bringing in a gun in the first place which might increase the risk of someone getting shot compared to a scenario where he’d need to go back to his car to get his gun once the madness hit him. Assuming that there is an increased risk of this happening (and the actual increase in risk is going to be very low considering you still have the risk of him getting his gun and returning) it is offset by the fact that you may have another person with a conceal and carry permit in the building who would be able to defend against the madman. So in the end the risk from conceal and carry permit holders is the same with or without the exemption.

      Now if you want to argue that the courthouse really needs to have metal detectors to make the building secure, I understand your point. However, the risk under the exemption or post exemption is going to be the same without getting metal detectors.

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