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Ferndale

October 23, 2013

Council approves $48,914 for new courthouse security upgrades

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

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Construction for the renovations at the 43rd District Courthouse in Ferndale began the first week of October. A new security system will be installed that will include a monitored camera system, an updated panic-button system and keyless entry.

FERNDALE — The Ferndale City Council during its Oct. 14 meeting unanimously approved spending $48,914 to update security at the 43rd District Courthouse once the building renovations wrap up in the spring.

The money will be used to install new equipment from Security Corp, including monitored cameras in multiple areas of the courthouse, a panic button with a monitoring system and a new keyless entry system for multiple areas within the building.

The cost includes installation of all the new equipment, as well as Security Corp monitoring if someone presses the panic button.

“Right now, we have minimal security, and having cameras throughout the whole building, keyless entry and an updated panic-button system is all critical to making sure the court employees and visitors are as safe as possible,” City Manager April Lynch said. “Our whole goal is (to) prevent and mitigate any potential harmful circumstances that may escalate throughout the day.”

City officials are hoping part of the $48,914 will be covered by a grant that the city is applying for through the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority. The request is for a $25,000 grant that would go directly to covering a portion of the upgrades.

The $48,914 is coming out of the $2 million budget for the courthouse and Ferndale police station renovations. Lynch said the entire amount has been allocated for the upgrades, just in case the grant does not come through.

“We are lucky and fortunate to have the opportunity to apply for the grant, but if we don’t get it, we still need the security,” she said.

The city has been saving for 12 years to afford the renovations for the courthouse and police station. The roughly $2 million project will not be paid for with tax dollars, however, as money was raised through traffic fines for more than a decade.

The police station will have about 1,000 square feet added on, while the courthouse will have about a 4,000-square-foot addition when the project is completed, which is scheduled for May. The extra space will allow the courthouse clerk to have a new office and provide extra space for interview rooms.

During the construction, personnel from the police station have been housed in the bottom floor of City Hall, and Judge Joseph Longo has conducted court hearings in the City Council chambers. Most court personnel are working in a building made available by Credit Union ONE on East Nine Mile Road.

“All the security being added is outlined by the Supreme Court by what a local court ought to have, and we have not been able to comply to this point,” Longo said. “The cameras will allow us to protect employees and see what is going on in various parts of the building and make sure there are no problems.

“People come to court, and they are emotional; people suing other people get very upset, and people who testify in criminal cases meet in the bathroom, and that could become a problem. Now, we will have the ability to keep track of where people are going and any issues.”

The keyless entry also will be a welcome addition, Longo said. City Hall has a similar system.

“Sometimes, we will have service workers who can’t afford to pay fines and costs, and they come work at the court, but we want them to have limited access, so now, we can allow them in a room to spread files but not have access to rooms with active files or bench warrants,” Longo said.

“Keyless entry will allow us to secure the records from various people, and not necessarily bad people, but we have medical information and we need to meet a certain level of security.”

Spiritech made a slightly cheaper bid at $42,290.87 for a security upgrade, but Lynch said the quote did not include everything that was requested. The main objective is the safety of anyone in the courthouse, she said, and they wanted to make sure they had all the equipment necessary.

“I think the more prevention we can put in place, the safer we are all going to be,” Lynch said. “The climate has changed quite a bit and there are more violent activities occurring, so we need to protect our employees and visitors in the best possible way and monitoring throughout the building is critical to that.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Joshua Gordon at jgordon@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1077.