Monroe Sheriff pushes for new courthouse entrance

WOODSFIELD — Monroe County Sheriff Charles Black urged Monroe County Commissoners on Monday to move more quickly on returning the county courthouse entrance from the current alley location to the front of the building.

“The worst location is back there because that is your most shielded area where you can tuck behind stuff. There are so many different places if you wanted to make a confrontation that no one is really going to see you, unless it’s out in front of the courthouse. When you’ve got people in the square, people at the lights, someone is going to immediately see it,” Black said. “(In the alley) you are kind of tucked away around a corner. I’m just not in favor of it and I haven’t liked it …”

Commissioners decided after the ambush shooting of Jefferson County Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. on Aug. 21 at the courthouse in Steubenville to make the alley entrance the main entrance temporarily because it is the only main entrance that is currently handicapped accessible.

The other two main entrances are now closed. Security officers have been placed at the alley entrance.

The commissioners agreed with Black, and said they plan to consult DLH Design, LLC, an architectural firm from Marietta to make more definite plans for a permanent solution.

According to Commissioner Mick Schumacher, there will also be a meeting of the county’s courthouse security committee on Oct. 17, in which County Court Judge Jason Yoss has invited a member of the Ohio Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Court Security to take a tour of the courthouse and make recommendations.

“I don’t think everybody’s on the same page, and I think we need to be. We’ve made a lot of changes here without having a courthouse security meeting per se,” Schumacher said. “Nobody has a full idea of what is going on.”

“I don’t want to speak out of turn here but I think all we’re doing here is spinning our wheels. Just make a plan, get it going, and go with it. This is just the way it is … there are people already mad about this,” Black said. “We’re almost to October. In less than three months, the officers are going to be seven miles away.”

Commissioner Tim Price agreed that something must be done in a cost-effective way, which would be remodeling the entrance to County Prosecutor James Peters’ office which is located at the Main Street entrance. Peters’ office would ideally be relocated.

“In my opinion, the most cost-effective idea that I’ve heard so far is using the front door where James is now, doing some renovation,” Price said. “It’s already street-level, it just makes sense to me to look at that really hard, to get an architect in here to go over that again.”

In other business, Monroe County Public Transportation program director Denise Potts showed commissioners the numbers for the program’s 2018 grant application. The total amount of the grant application totals $434,627 for transportation services, paid for by contracts by agencies who use the services, passenger fees, local shares, state funds and federal funds.

Potts said the program hopes to introduce a new “dialysis route” for those who need such medical treatment in New Martinsville. She also said the program will look into transport routes to Marietta instead of Belmont County for transport to colleges for eligible students.

“Hopefully we’ll start picking up Marietta kids because we are starting to lose riders to the Belmont College and OUE,” Potts said. “We have to go one way or the other, there are not two routes. So which would be more feasible is the way we want to go. If there are more students at Marietta from our area that is the way we’re going to go.”

In other county news, County Engineer Amy Zwick presented several road use maintenance agreements and work permits for oil and gas companies. Upcoming construction projects also were discussed.

Also Monday. Job and Family Services Director Jeanette Harter presented commissioners with several sub-grant renewal agreements with agencies that partner with the county to provide services, including MCTP and Guernsesy Monroe Noble Tri-County CIC. The contracts provide services such as higher education transportation, “Project Partnership Program,” which places a case manager in every school, the “Youth Empowered for Success” program, and Title XX Senior meal and transportation programs. All contracts were approved.

Harter also updated the commissioners on a recent JFS program that helped 288 eligible families purchase $400 in back- to-school clothing, laptops, ipads and headphones for each child.

“We spent over $300,000 on the program, and Shopko and Kohl’s participated with us,” Harter said.