Commission votes down contract negotiations with security firm

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

A divided Curry County Commission voted Tuesday against entering into contract negotiations with a security consulting firm for security improvements at the Curry County Courthouse.

The 3-2 vote during the meeting at the Clovis-Carver Public Library covered a recommendation from the county’s courthouse security citizens committee to negotiate with Rapiscan Systems of Torrance, Calif.

Commissioners Bobby Sandoval, Frank Blackburn and Wendell Bostwick voted against entering negotiations.

Sandoval said he didn’t have enough information to feel comfortable about approving such a measure.

He said the information from the committee did not include any accounting of traffic at the courthouse.

“I don’t think we have enough answers,” Sandoval said.

He said there have been times he’s waited 45 minutes to get through the courthouse security with metal detectors, but there are other times there’s no traffic at all, yet the courthouse has the same number of security employees.

Blackburn agreed, and echoed another Sandoval point that the county bought a building from the U.S. Postal Service on Gidding Street, and intends to move county offices there. The courthouse recommendations, Blackburn said, did not include such a contingency plan.

“I’m not ready,” Blackburn said, “and the public isn’t ready.”

Commission Chairman Caleb Chandler put the item to a vote, knowing it would potentially fail, because he felt the commission needed to take action.

“I think we owe it to the public to secure the courthouse,” Chandler said. “We have no good way of determining if weapons are in the courthouse.”

Sandoval said the commission also owed it to the citizens to handle the task efficiently, but enacting recommendations without information on busy and slow periods at the courthouse could create a situation with security deputies, “twiddling their thumbs.”

Chandler and Commissioner Dan Stoddard voted in favor of entering negotiations.

Stoddard said the agreement was not binding the county in any other way. County Financial Officer Mark Lansford said conditions could be evaluated and savings could be found.

“That’s what negotiating is for,” Lansford said.

Following the vote, Sheriff Matt Murray requested a lift to a hold on hiring five deputies. He said the action item was there if the commission approved the security recommendations, and the action would allow him to actually hire six permanent courthouse deputies through salary savings.

That was also rejected on a 3-2 vote, with Sandoval, Blackburn and Bostwick voting no.