Renville County Courthouse considers more secure entrance, metal detectors

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In a push to increase security at the Renville County Courthouse, officials are considering a single entry system equipped with a metal detector.

Standing outside the historic courthouse in Olivia, Minnesota, Renville County Commissioner John Stahl lamented the fact the facility needs a security makeover.

“It’s sad that we have to live this way, in my opinion,” he said. “We have to do something to make this secure for anyone who comes to this court, the people who work here…in fact, the entire building.”

Renville County officials are not alone in this debate, grappling with budget constraints, security concerns and public access in facilities where people come to interact with their government agencies.

Currently, the building is wide open with four entrances on all sides. The only metal detector sits outside a quiet courtroom used infrequently for high tension-hearings.

Is the courthouse safe? I believe it is. Could it be safer? Of course. Any building could be safer. The question is, the conversation is, what’s a reasonable amount of money to invest to make it that much safer?” asked Renville County Sheriff Scott Hable.

Over the last several months, Renville county has brought together key stakeholders to discuss security enhancements at the courthouse as well as the related costs.

The building houses not just the courtrooms, but also other offices including the assessor and a Driver’s License Bureau - so people are always coming and going.

One of the recommendations is to go to a single public entrance with a metal detector and a sheriff’s deputy screening everyone in and out. Estimated costs are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Stahl certainly doesn’t want to see a repeat of the events that unfolded at the Cook County Courthouse in Grand Marais where a defendant went on a shooting rampage seven years ago after a guilty verdict.

“Something happens. Maybe it ain’t today, maybe it ain’t tomorrow, maybe it’s 10 years down the road. But, how do you explain that we did nothing? That’s an area I can’t go,” Stahl said.

The next step in the debate comes Tuesday morning when the Board of Commissioners meets to examine the recommendations, look at hard numbers and ultimately decide whether there is enough money to beef up security at the courthouse.