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Parish officials hope to up courthouse security

VIDALIA — Concordia Parish may dole out $70,000 to beef up courthouse security.

The money would pay for a video surveillance system and swipe card access system for certain offices.

Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington met Thursday with officials from various offices in the courthouse including the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s office and the Clerk of Court’s office, to discuss the installation and cost estimates for the new systems.

“We had a really good meeting, and all the representatives from the different offices provided a lot of good feedback about the project,” Ferrington said. “We talked about a lot of different possibilities for security, but this is something that will have to be done in phases.”

The first phase, Ferrington said, would include installing security cameras around the inside and outside of the courthouse.

The footage from the cameras would feed into a central monitoring station that would be placed in the CPSO dispatcher’s room on the bottom floor of the courthouse.

“We’re still working to figure out who would be monitoring those screens,” Ferrington said. “We’re still discussing if it would be a sheriff’s office dispatcher or someone else.”

The other part of the first phase would include installing swipe card readers on certain doors in a variety of offices including the judge’s office, clerk’s office, district attorney’s office and police jury office.

“Those are areas where people are coming in and out of the courthouse everyday, and we could monitor and control those areas,” Ferrington said. “If someone quit or retired we would obviously delete their access, and they couldn’t get in anymore.”

Also in attendance at the meeting was Mike Elliott, regional vice president of sales with Homeland Safety Systems Inc. of Shreveport.

Ferrington said Elliott provided useful information about the feasibility of the project.

“He’s an expert on that type of thing, so we wanted him there to see what he thought about everything,” Ferrington said. “He’s going to work up an overall estimate and get that back to us to work with.”

While Ferrington said Elliott didn’t provide any rough estimates at the meeting, the parish officials are estimating the cost of the project at approximately $70,000.

The majority of the cost of the project, Ferrington said, will hopefully be covered by Department of Homeland Security grants that Concordia Parish Emergency Management Director Morris White is helping to secure.

White said the grant money would come through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s State Homeland Security Program.

“The grant can supply us with things we have to do in times of disaster or to improve security,” White said. “We feel like the security of the courthouse is important to protect the people and the elected officials of the parish.”

White said once he receives the official estimate from Elliott he could begin attempting to get approval to use the funds, which are already allocated to the parish.

“Those are funds we’ve gotten over the past few years, but that we can only use for certain things,” White said. “We’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of $72,000, but that’s not necessarily a figure you can bet on because there could be something that we can’t use the money for.

“We’re hoping they will let us use those for everything, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Ferrington said if the funds were allocated, the project could take an estimated six months to complete.