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Local security upgrades planned

Though no one's life has ever been threatened in the Clay County Courthouse, officials shouldn't take their safety for granted, said Clay County Administrator Vijay Sethi.

Though no one's life has ever been threatened in the Clay County Courthouse, officials shouldn't take their safety for granted, said Clay County Administrator Vijay Sethi.

"Over the past many years, the clientele is changing. There is a lot more hostility in the courthouse now," Sethi said.

Even before two people were shot, one fatally, in the Hennepin County Government Center Monday, local government officials were concerned about the security of their buildings.

Clay County has included security upgrades in its $7 million courthouse remodeling project, and Moorhead will consider some simple security measures as part of City Hall renovations this fall.

"There are a lot more ways to address security than freaking out and putting Kevlar everywhere," said City Manager Bruce Messelt.

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At the City Council's Oct. 13 meeting, members will discuss adding security measures, including key-card access for employee doors, having an officer present at council meetings during discussion of controversial topics, and hardening the barrier in front of the desks where council members sit during meetings.

The county has already made its safety improvements during the renovation of the courthouse, which started early last year.

Additions include installing more security cameras, keeping prisoners on their way to hearings out of public hallways, and closing off all entrances except for the front door, where a metal detector was installed, Sethi said.

Previously, a metal detector stood only at the entrance to the third floor, where the courtrooms were.

The improvements were recommended by several grand jury reports that included concerns about safety, Sethi said. But another reason for the changes is simply that people seem to get angrier than before about regular county decisions, from the courts to the planning office.

"There haven't been any direct threats to anybody's life, but there is the concern that it may lead to violence," Sethi said.

Though the security measures may be practical, Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland has never felt concerned for his safety during his 16 years as a public official, he said.

"I've never been at a meeting when I felt threatened," Voxland said. "I have this foolish feeling that people in our community are actually good."

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Joy Anderson at (701) 241-5556

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