MISSOULA — County officials say the courthouse in Missoula needs extra security.
Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick told MTN News that judges want more security in their courtrooms, and employees want to feel safe.
“Unfortunately across the country, we’ve seen sort of pre-COVID, a real rash in active shooter events," he said.
“Our courthouse is a public space, you can walk in to deal with car titles, be part of a trial, be part of a jury, just walk in if you want,” Slotnick continued.
The Commissioners are asking for $150,000 in their fiscal year 2021 budget request to add cameras, an information desk, and potentially unarmed security guards to the courthouse this year.
Technology Director Jason Emery says about 75 cameras will go on the inside and outside of the building, and in the stairwells.
“It’s kind of the nature of the world, we just need to be a little bit more aware,” Emery said.
Bulletproof glass and portable metal detectors are options for the future, depending on how much money is allotted.
“Just, in my opinion, it might be a little higher on a target list for somebody that wanted to cause issues, as opposed to a business, just because of the nature of what government is,” Emery said.
The plan is to phase these measures in over the course of the next few years -- but some of the work has already started.
“Thankfully a lot of this was planned for when the courthouse remodel happened. So there’s many electrical boxes and a lot of cabling that’s already been done in a lot of the areas that we identified for cameras, so that will actually help speed it up quite a bit, and hopefully cut some costs since we’ve already done some of those investments," Emery said.
The doors at the courthouse are still mostly closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Emery said that could potentially help speed up the process of the additions. He added social distancing during construction could slow things down.
There’s no real set timeline yet, but Emery says if the budget passes he hopes to start getting the cameras in this calendar year.
The funding, like other parts of the Commissioners budget, would come from a property tax increase.