Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

February 10, 2014

County to restrict courthouse access

By Bob Belcher
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — In a move driven partly by security and partly by the condition of the aging courthouse, the Navarro County Commissioners Court voted Monday to restrict courthouse entry to the basement entrances.

Access to the courthouse will be via one of three basement entry ways once the measure approved Monday takes place, and following the installation of barricades at the two remaining first-floor entrances.  County Judge H.M. Davenport said the fire marshall gave approval for the plan Monday. The main entrance to the courthouse facing Third Avenue was closed in December when pieces of the building’s facade began to fall onto the stairs below.

The remaining first floor doors will not actually be locked, but rather barriers will be put at the bottom of the stairways to indicate the entries are closed. The doors would remain unlocked to allow for emergency exit from the building, said Navarro County Sheriff Elmer Tanner.

“The mission here is to discourage that as an entry point, in hopes that the public will acclimate themselves to what is ultimately going to be security at this facility,” Tanner explained.

Tanner said the recommendation to restrict entry to the first floor entrances was the consensus of the county’s security committee.

“It was the decision of the board, not just mine,” Tanner explained. “The sheriff is responsible for courthouse security at the will of the commissioners court. Anything that we need to do in reference to security has to be passed and approved by the commissioners court.”

Another security concern Tanner voiced at Monday’s meeting is the number of people that presently have keyed-access to the building, saying that issue needs to be addressed with the courthouse restoration.

Pct. 1 Commissioner Jason Grant said commissioners did take into account that the tax office was busy this time of year, and said that’s why entry isn’t being restricted to just a single entry now — leaving all three basement entries open.

“But at some point in time that’s what it’s going to be,” Grant said. “Unfortunately times have changed and we have to change with them, for our employees’ sake as well as the public’s sake.”

County Judge H.M. Davenport Jr. said after the meeting that it will likely be a week or so before the entryways are blocked off.

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Bob Belcher may be reached by email at bbelcher@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com