Since Sept. 11, 2001, a heightened awareness has persisted among people in America, especially when they're doing business in public buildings. Hands down, that was the most tragic day in the history of the mainland of this country. However, the resulting cautiousness since has been a blessing in disguise.
Harrison County is indeed fortunate to have one of the few well-equipped and staffed security systems at its courthouse. The force of some 20 part-time officers who provide security around the clock, seven days a week, all year long, has become a model of sorts for other security-conscious counties to follow.
Hopefully, the less protected courthouses in North Central West Virginia counties will do just that.
For courthouse employees or visitors in Harrison County who may think the security guards cause them an inconvenience, stop and realize they could very well save someone's life or prevent someone from suffering serious injury -- perhaps yours.
Kudos to former Sheriff Wayne Godwin and Harrison County commissioners for implementing the security system at the courthouse. It was they who decided to put the system into effect. It was implemented in mid-2002.
Procuring grant monies and equipment and hiring personnel to make the security system work were not just an overnight experience, according to Sheriff Jim Jack, who manages courthouse security.
Funding for the security comes not only from grants, but from an annual county vital services levy, which totaled around $175,000 for 2003. That's expected to increase about $15,000 this year, said Joe Carbacio, assistant manager of courthouse security and the one who prepares the budget.
Salaries for the officers come from about 95 percent of the courthouse security budget.
The presence of the guards is invaluable, not only in the aftermath of terrorist acts on 9-11, but also in times when violent crime suspects may be in the courthouse at the same time families of victims are there.
One security officer said the guards' presence has averted problems in circuit and family court. And the tax office personnel are appreciative of the security, as well.
So the next time you have occasion to enter the Harrison County Courthouse, let the guards know you're glad they're there.
Robert F. Stealey