Woodbury County Courthouse security

Troy Jones, of Sioux City, walks through a metal detector Aug. 29 in the Woodbury County Courthouse. A state panel has ruled in favor of sheriff's deputies who filed a grievance last year over security personnel.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal file

SIOUX CITY | Security guards working at the Woodbury County Courthouse could be reapplying for their jobs less than a year after they started.

A change in who provides courthouse security is almost certain to occur in coming months, but the Woodbury County Board on Tuesday decided to wait while a legal challenge plays out.

Seven guards hired to fill three positions started work at the end of August, after a long, contentious debate last year over who should oversee the building's first-ever security plan. The courthouse, at 620 Douglas St., was built in 1918.

Sheriff Dave Drew had expected to provide staffing after the board approved the security plan requested by County Attorney Patrick "P.J." Jennings and other courthouse officials. But the board decided in May to have the Human Resources Department hire retired law enforcement officers and others to staff a metal detector at the building's entrance.

Three board members -- Chairman Mark Monson, Jeremy Taylor and Matthew Ung -- have publicly stated they want to make a change. Three affirmative votes on the five-member board would make that happen.

Drew on Tuesday said it was time for his office to supervise the security duties, but the board decided to move more slowly.

"We don't want to send the message that we are jumping that decision," Monson said.

The outsourcing, aimed at saving an estimated $70,000 a year in personnel costs, resulted in sheriff's deputies filing a grievance through their union. The action before the Public Employee Relations Board in November pitted deputies in the Communications Workers of America Local 7177 against the new security workers, who are represented by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3462. The county supported AFSCME in the action. The relations board's decision is due by March 22.

The deputies union contends the current contract between the county and union mandates that all security in county buildings be provided by the Sheriff’s Office.

If the ruling goes against the county and AFSCME and the county shifts staffing to the Sheriff's Office, Human Resources Director Ed Gilliland said the current security guards could seek to work out of that office.

They would have to pass tests by the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy to do that. The current security workers can detain anyone caught bringing weapons into the courthouse but don't have the full arrest powers of deputies.

"The intention is to keep everybody we can," Gilliland said.

Drew on Tuesday unveiled a plan to provide security staffing from his office, which Taylor and Ung said they liked. The proposal showed three workers could be hired at a yearly cost of either $136,222 or $183,778. The $47,000 difference depends on whether the leader would be a sergeant or a lower-paid correctional officer.

The county budgeted $250,000 for a security plan this year, which includes metal detectors and cameras.

After the meeting, Finance Director Dennis Butler said the proposed cost for existing security personnel for the 2016 fiscal year is $149,500.

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County and education reporter

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