Commissioners talk courthouse security, drive-by shootings

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    Carter

EPHRATA — Courthouse security, the recent spate of drive-by shootings in Grant County, and electing a new chair for the county commission for 2018 were all on the agenda for the Grant County Commission during its last regular meeting of 2017.

Commissioners reviewed a letter from Superior Court Judge John Antonsz calling for increased courthouse security, including installation of panic buttons for judges and contracting with a private security firm.

Commissioner Tom Taylor, who represents the southeast portion of Grant County including Moses Lake, said commissioners were working with superior court to reach an acceptable solution.

“We want to do this right,” Taylor said. “Why spend money while we are trying to get this right?”

It would cost a great deal of money for Grant County to hire a private security firm, Taylor continued, and he would prefer that any additional courtroom security be provided by uniformed sheriff’s deputies.

“We have more control that way,” he said.

Sheriff Tom Jones, who had a regularly scheduled meeting with commissioners Wednesday morning, said that sheriff’s deputies are not usually in court unless their presence is requested.

In fact, according to the Undersheriff Dave Ponozzo, the only time right now deputies routinely provide security is for family court, where situations can get a little volatile.

Jones told commissioners that this office is trying to work out an approach to dealing with a recent increase in drive-by shooting in Grant County. The sheriff said there have been three in the county in the last two weeks, though no one has yet been injured or killed.

“We don’t know if it’s related to a sweep the feds did recently, but we’re trying to make a game plan to deal with it,” Jones said.

On Dec. 13, agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with the Grant County Sheriff, arrested eight people in Grant County in connection with a multi-state investigation into drug smuggling and gun running.

Finally, commissioners elected a new chair for 2018, elevating Commissioner Richard Stevens, who represents the northern portion of Grant County, to lead the commission for the next year.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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