Security upgrades at Centreville courthouse

Security at St. Joseph County’s historic courthouse and its courts building is in store for a significant enhancement following action this week by the county board of commissioners.

The boost will cost more than $500,000 in personnel alone.

Undersheriff Mark Lillywhite told commissioners Tuesday quotes regarding several other precautions – including external and internal security cameras, replacing glass and doors, and converting certain access points to emergency exits – will be received by the end of the month.

He did not speculate on the non-personnel costs but will report the figures to county administrator Pat Yoder as they become available.

Lillywhite’s plan includes the addition of four full-time corrections deputies and a supervisor at the courthouse. He also is proposing changing certain doors to key-card accessibility, switching out a number of doors to steel, moving one of the two metal detectors at the courts building entrance to the tunnel entering the historic courthouse side, replacing glass partitions that separate employees from the public in circuit and family courts, and locking all entries into the historic courthouse and making them alarmed emergency exits.

As an aside, Lillywhite said he also looked at changing out the lobby area of the sheriff’s department, fitting it with ballistic-proof glass.

Board chairman Allen Balog said the county is fortunate nothing has ever happened in Centreville on the scale of Berrien County. He said that incident, however, hit too close to home.

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