A metal detector will soon be front and center for everyone who enters the Scott County Courthouse, no longer left to the third floor only during certain court hearings and trials.

Courthouse visitors will be met by a metal detector and X-ray machine when the new entrance pavilion, part of the $29.7 million jail expansion, opens next month.

To operate the new security equipment beginning Nov. 19, the county will add one full-time bailiff, move one part-time bailiff to full time and add two part-time positions.

“It brings us up-to-date as far as what is going on around the country and how other government buildings are protected,” Scott County Sheriff Dennis Conard said. “It is more of what is going on in the rest of the country than a specific threat here.”

Chief Judge Bobbi Alpers of the 7th Judicial District is glad for improved security after seeing the effect at other courthouses, where some people decide against entering when they realize they have to go through  security.

“I think it is a deterrent,” she said. “(People) realize they are going to go through the process of being checked, and they turn around.”

Now, visitors enter the building and conduct business on the bustling first floor without being checked. Armed bailiffs monitor security and patrol the building, but the only time visitors must pass through the metal detector is for domestic-related hearings and trials held on the third floor. Cell phones also are allowed inside the courthouse and will continue to be, unlike the Rock Island County Courthouse.

The courthouse had four entrances until the jail construction started. Now visitors are limited to one entrance, the front door on 4th Street. The entrance pavilion, with its glass and metal facade, will funnel visitors into the west end of the first floor.

“We had an opportunity to address security in the courthouse and jail,” David Donovan, the county’s director of facility and support services, said.

Several years ago, county officials considered how to make a secure entrance to the courthouse. Donovan said those plans, turning a first-floor holding cell into an entrance with metal detector and X-ray machine, were scuttled because of space constraints. At the time, there wasn’t much concern about the need for extra security from the board of supervisors or sheriff’s department.

This summer, the county did a study to determine the flow of people in and out of the courthouse. At times, between 150-200 public visitors enter the courthouse per hour. The study, which also tracked employee use and professionals who regularly use the courthouse, pinpointed 9 a.m. and 1-2 p.m. as times when traffic increases.

The first-floor hallway is fairly narrow, but the county plans to widen it. A raised desk for bailiffs in the main first-floor hallway will remain, but may be removed in the future.

“The whole downstairs of the courthouse will be renovated,” Conard said. “Until we see how the flow is in and around the courtrooms, we may be able to get rid of the fixed position.”

Kurt Allemeier can be contacted at (563) 383-2360 or kallemeier@qctimes.com.

Courthouse security changes

When: Beginning Nov. 19

Entrance: All visitors will use the new entrance pavilion on the west side of the building.

Security for public: Visitors must go through a metal detector and have personal belongings X-rayed. Cell phones and personal computers are allowed, but weapons or anything that could be used as a weapon, such as pocket knives, are not allowed.

Security for staff and regular courthouse users: Separate, secure entrances will be used by certain staff members and passes will be issued for

regular courthouse users.