The Great Smoky Mountain Journal

Staff Reports

Posted: Monday, January 01, 2018 12:43 PM

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Sevier County Committee Taking Hard Look At Courthouse Security

Sevier County officials are looking more intensely at courthouse security since tabling an option for a new courthouse after the November wildfires.

"We've come further than we've ever come before," Judge Rex Henry Ogle, chairman of the courthouse committee, told local news outlets on Monday.

Security is an issue courthouses across the state have been working to resolve - it's even caught Governor Bill Haslam's attention.

"I think that we've had several incidents around the state since I've been governor, so it does make you aware," he said. "Particularly when you have trials going on, prisoners being transported to-and-from, and then you have a lot of public officials in a place."

Sheriff Ron Seals has gone on record saying it's nearly impossible to provide adequate security to a building with so many entrances.

County Mayor Larry Waters says security is adequate since the courthouse is a multi-use facility.
"It's not just a courtroom. Across the state, most multi-use facilities do not have metal detectors at every door."

However, other counties differ in their approach to security according to a local investigation by a Knoxville news outlet.

Union County recently voted to close off their multiple entrances and secure one entrance with a metal detector and security officer. Blount County screens everyone entering their courtrooms.

"I think the committee recognizes the need," said Judge Ogle. "You know, there are differing opinions, I'm sure, on this committee as well as county commission on what everyone feels is needed."

Although the committee cannot take action, they unanimously voted Monday to make recommendations based around three factors: money, property and security.

Members of the committee voted to recommend a $50 court tax fee to help pay for the new courthouse.

They will also recommend someone pursue one of three properties near the jail. Lastly, they will recommend the building's structure - and how that will increase safety and space for people walking into the courthouse.