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Woodbury County Courthouse

The Woodbury County Courthouse is shown in January 2010. County officials clashed Tuesday about how to staff security changes at the building. 

SIOUX CITY | The official who takes minutes at Woodbury County Board meetings took the unusual step Tuesday of publicly chiding board members for pitching a revised plan to secure the courthouse.

The official, county Recorder and Auditor Pat Gill, was critical of a two-page security plan that board member Jackie Smith, of Sioux City, made available as the weekly meeting began. As the board moved to a vote after a few minutes of discussion, Gill said it was a "dysfunctional" process in which the public had no time to digest the proposal.

"This is not transparent," he said.

County officials have spent months reviewing and adopting a $250,000 security improvement plan for the 620 Douglas St. building, which houses county officials and courtrooms. The 1918 building has never had a comprehensive security system. County Attorney P.J. Jennings and other officials have lobbied for changes.

The County Board in January approved closing the building’s west entrance, adding nine cameras and installing metal detectors by July.

The cameras were later dropped because of cost concerns. Last month, Board Chairman George Boykin, of Sioux City, questioned the need for a full-time Sheriff’s Office supervisor at the metal detectors.

Sheriff Dave Drew has recommended having a sergeant supervise three department workers to monitor the devices.

The Smith proposal introduced Tuesday would have board members hire and oversee security personnel through the Human Resources Department. Smith said that plan would save money and allow them to add some of the cameras back.

"I just want courthouse security that is as economical as possible," Smith said.

The proposal was listed on the meeting agenda but details were not provided to board members before the meeting. Board members are generally given a packet of information about items they are discussing and voting on.

Gill, whose job is to record how board members vote during weekly meetings, on Tuesday called the proposal a “secret plan.” Gill made his comments from his seat at the table with the five board members. He later went to a podium used by citizens to address the board.

Said Boykin to Gill, “I totally disagree with you.”

Gill shot back, "George, it was not in the homework” of agenda memos.

Drew and County Board members have been at odds in the past year over other staffing issues, including a plan to increase the number of sheriff's reserve deputies. Drew has been critical of the board for not addressing staffing issues as the courthouse security plan is set to start in July.

Drew said his staffing plan would cost $188,457 in personnel costs, leaving nearly $62,000 for other pieces of the security plan, he said.

He said outsourcing is a bad idea.

"Law enforcement duties are best placed in the hands of law enforcement officials," Drew said.

Board member Mark Monson, of Sergeant Bluff, on Tuesday said that Smith's idea is flawed.

"I can't see the (County Board) supervising a security group," Monson said.

Boykin said there are too many unknowns with the two plans and postponed the decision until the May 13 County Board meeting. He said the agenda will have the options outlined.

The upgrades were proposed by a committee that included Boykin, Jennings and personnel from the Sheriff’s Office, Human Resources Department and court personnel.

"We do not want to cause this to go down in flames," Boykin said.


County and education reporter

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