Supervisors Ponder Cost Of Courthouse Security

Glass surrounds the main staircases in the Biloxi and Gulfport courthouses. Cameras watch every move, and there is no more getting to the second floor throught the two end doors. The tighter security is a request from chancery judges who hear emotional family cases..and because of the 911 terrorist attacks.

"We've got several hundred people that work in this building and their safety is tops with us," says District 2 Supervisor Larry Benefield.

But the biggest safety feature in both courthouses doesn't work. The metal detectors are unmanned. An attorney general's ruling says the supervisors cannot legally hire a private security company to oversee the detectors, but they can authorize the sheriff to do so.

"The training that we would need here would not be that of a patrol officer that would be out there everyday puttin' his eye on the line. This would be more of a security type thing so we believe and we hope the sheriff will look into privatization of some of those services," Benefield says.

But the board doesn't know how much that will cost.

District 1 Supervisor Bobby Eleuterius says, "When we go into the budget process we're gonna be lookin' at saving taxpayers as much money as we possibly can."

To figure that out, the board may advertise for bids from private security companies and crunch the numbers to compare the sheriff's cost versus the private company costs. Sheriff George Payne says if privatizing courthouse security saves taxpayers money, he's all for it. So far, the supervisors estimate they've spent about $250,000 making the courthouses safer.