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County wants safer courthouse

On the morning of March 26, Robert Jeter Jr. walked into the Lincoln County Courthouse and politely told clerks he was looking for his wife.
He left when they told him she wasn’t there.
Minutes later Jeter was chasing Sherry Moncree, his estranged wife, down Main Street. He struck her vehicle with his and allegedly shot at her while she was running to get away.
The incident raised concerns about safety at the courthouse and prompted county commissioners Monday night to allocate $65,000 to start an extensive plan designed to make the building safer.
“That could have taken place in the courtroom instead of out in the street,” Commissioner Tom Anderson said.
Clerk of Court Fred Hatley said additional security is necessary considering the number of people who come in and out of the courthouse daily.
“We’re well aware that there’s probably weapons being brought into the courthouse,” Hatley told the board. “The judges are concerned, and everybody involved in the courthouse is highly concerned about security.”
Architect Dennis Williams submitted a 14-step plan that breaks down the security needs of the courthouse.
The $65,000 commissioners approved will go toward starting the first four steps.
The first move for the county will be purchasing and installing 68 panic buttons that will be located near staff members and judicial officials. When activated, the buttons will alert law enforcement stationed in the building.
Step One also involves constructing a new kiosk and staffing the central rotunda location. A deputy will man the kiosk, which will be equipped with a direct alarm connection to the communications center.
Step Two includes locking panels and switches, trimming shrubbery and changing furniture in courtrooms.
Bathrooms will be modified to eliminate hiding spaces in Step Three.
And in Step Four, eight ground-floor cameras will be installed at the kiosk and tied into the existing camera in the tax office. Seating will be repositioned in the courtroom so witnesses waiting to testify won’t have their backs to the public, officers will have an internal frequency for communicating and a key control plan will be developed.
Commissioners agreed to treat the situation as an emergency condition, meaning they won’t have to go through a formal bid process.
In other business, commissioners:
· Approved an application from Larry Clark to rezone 286 acres off Reepsville Road to accommodate a planned mixed-use district. The development will include residential, commercial and rural aspects.
· Approved a rezoning application from Bobby Poole to permit an auto sales lot on Beth Haven Church Road near Vesuvius Furnace Road. This decision went against the recommendation of the county’s planning board to deny the request.
· Approved a memorandum of understanding for the N.C. 73 Transportation/Land use Corridor Plan.by Alice Smith

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