After signing a contract with a new security firm last November, Missoula County on Thursday followed by approving a $75,000 contract to build a security desk in the courthouse, making it easier to monitor the facility while helping the public navigate the building.
The contract with Jackson Contracting Group marks the county’s latest efforts to address security concerns at the facility, which is home to Missoula District Court and other public functions.
“They’ll have monitors that will view cameras throughout the courthouse and on the grounds,” said Jason Hauser with county planning services. “There will be an informational desk there for the public to get information on where they need to be.”
Aside from security concerns, the old courthouse and newer annex serve as a maze of activity spread across various floors and subfloors in various buildings.
Municipal court sits on one floor while district court is spread across several floors on opposite ends of the facility. Missoula County’s public meeting room lies in one part of the facility while vehicle registration and titles sit in another.
The Missoula County Sheriff’s Department also occupies the building. The new security desk will help the public navigate the facility.
“Taking out the security piece of it, it just goes to how many people wander into the courthouse looking for directions or help, not knowing where to go,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. “This has been a long time coming.”
But safety represents the largest piece of the county’s effort to increase security at the facility. Last November, the county left Black Knight Security and entered into a new contract with Phoenix Protective Services out of Spokane.
The officers will be licensed to carry firearms but for now, they’ll be unarmed, the county has said. The facility is a gun-free zone, though some members of the public have been seen with firearms in the facility given the Legislature’s push to expand the carrying of firearms.
Chris Lounsbury, the county’s chief administrative officer, said the added security represents a multi-year approach that so far has included the new security contract and now the building of the security desk.
The county also added one more deputy to provide additional security to the courts.
“There’s a request coming for next year’s budget to add two more deputies,” Lounsbury said. “The sheriff is charged by statute to provide security in the courtrooms. There will be that request to the commission next year.”