December 6, 2019

Annex building dubbed least secure in state by Supreme Court analyst

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The Oscoda County annex building has been called the least secure courthouse in the state by Michigan Supreme Court Security Analyst Dennis MacDonnell.

County Prosecutor Cassie Morse-Bills said after MacDonnell did a recent inspection of the building he said it was one of the least secure courthouses he had ever seen. The Herald made contact with MacDonnell, but he chose not to respond to our requests for comment.

County Commissioner Pat Kelly said this was not the first time MacDonnell had given the annex building a walkthrough.

“We had the walkthrough and there was a number of suggestions he made,” Kelly said. “… This wasn’t the first go-around with us. He’s made these suggestions before.”

After the most recent walkthrough Kelly said MacDonnell had the county put together a security committee. That committee will be tasked with ensuring steps are taken to improve the level of security in the building.

The eight-person committee consists of the county maintenance supervisor, court administrator, prosecutor, presiding judge, sheriff and a couple county commissioners.

Kelly, a security committee member, said the first goal is to establish a priority list of projects that must be completed to improve security. Kelly said one of his goals is to do the most with the least.

“What would be the fastest thing and the cheapest thing to get us going,” he said.

Kelly said some of his goals range from ensuring staff members have scannable ID cards to putting LED security lamps on the outside of the building. He said one of his long-term goals would be limiting the egress of residents and employees through the building to one door each. Meaning staff would enter and exit through one door, and residents would do the same through another.

Kelly said while purchasing things to improve the security of the building is a step in the right direction, more must be done to ensure the safety of the staff.

“We need to train the staff for emergency procedures,” Kelly said. “Establish security plans for situations. On every door there should be a plan for where to go in case of an emergency.”

When asked why the county hadn’t made these changes in the past if this isn’t the first time MacDonnell made them, Kelly said he prefers to look to the future, not the past.

“We can’t do something the previous board should have,” Kelly said. “I would say it’s probably because of money. But we’re not looking at $10,000 to put security lights around the building.”

At a recent commissioners meeting, one lawyer who asked to remain anonymous said she’s dealt firsthand with the lack of security at the courthouse.

“I’ve been blocked from the door being screamed at by a 220-pound man screaming at me that it’s my fault he will lose custody of his child,” she said. “For us, security is a huge issue. It’s not a far-fetched thing to think I’ll be approached here.”

Morse-Bills said she’s struggled with the lack of security as well. For example, she said the panic button in her office has been broken for years.

“There are days I worry something is going to happen,” Morse-Bills said. “If someone showed up with a weapon there is nothing to stop them from coming in here.”

Going forward Kelly said he thinks the most important thing to do is to get started making changes.

“I’m thinking let’s see what we can do,” Kelly said. “I say pick the five biggest things and do them.”

The next security committee meeting is slated for early June.

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Ben Franklin

Jeff Foxworthy has this say this about politicians from Oscoda County.... "You know it's an election year when some local politicians can't even remotely tell the truth." End quote.

Example: this story is full of holes (like the air port story, it's mostly fake). Please note that person is running for commissioner by ruining the county. Yes, he is another "politician".

Remember again that someone in this article is running for office. So they really needed to ratchet up the rhetoric because their current career is based not upon "delivering justice" but on "making money" in the justice system. Sad....

Lastly, I'm not here to blame the writer. This is an well written article. You can't fault them for being spoon feed false information from a run of the mill "politician".

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