Madison County officials ponder security checkpoint

Apr. 27--EDWARDSVILLE -- Madison County officials are considering a single new security checkpoint for public access to the county administration building and the adjacent old courthouse in downtown Edwardsville.

Visitors to the courthouse must pass through a metal detector monitored by three or four sheriff's deputies. But there is no screening of visitors to the administration building, about 100 feet across a pedestrian plaza between the buildings.

A sheriff's deputy has been assigned to the administration building during business hours since early last month.

"I feel pretty comfortable there are no weapons getting into the courthouse," Hertz said. "I can't say the same thing for the administration building."

Hertz has proposed a single checkpoint for the two buildings that would be housed in a new structure between the existing buildings. He said it would improve security in the administration building without additional equipment or personnel costs. The building could also provide shelter for people who must now sometimes wait in line outside the courthouse to pass through the metal detector.

Joe Parente, the county's director of administration, said the sheriff's proposal is among several security options being considered by staff and County Board committees. He said county officials began discussing added security for the administration building a month or so before a man fatally shot five people and wounded two others at Kirkwood City Hall on Feb. 7, but he said those shootings have increased the urgency.

Parente said people visit the administration building to pay taxes, appeal assessments, discuss zoning issues and see probation officers, public defenders and prosecutors. Some of those visitors are unhappy, he said.

County officials have to weigh the desire for improved security against its cost and added inconvenience to the public, Parente said.

Parente said no estimates of the cost of a new security checkpoint have been developed. He said any new structure should be designed so as not to detract from the architecture of the buildings.

Copyright (c) 2008, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.