One thing you'll notice pretty quickly at the Reno County Courthouse is all the exit signs. They're everywhere. It's not hard to leave the courthouse and law enforcement complex in Hutchinson, which also means it's not hard to get in.
Reno County Commissioners met with an architect and security consultant on Tuesday to talk over security concerns. Sheriff Randy Henderson asked the architect to make a presentation because two of three commissioners and the county administrator are relatively new to their positions.
Security is now at the forefront of several people's minds after a local attorney brought a fake grenade into the building last month. Sam Kepfield used the grenade as a prop during closing arguments of a trial two weeks ago. The incident showed that multiple entrances and no permanent metal detectors make it easy to bring banned items or weapons inside the building.
"You don't know if you're better off by telling the public this or if we're just giving people ideas," says Henderson. "You know? They don't have security there, so that's an easy target."
Henderson has been concerned over courthouse security for several years, but he also realizes there is no easy solution. He has metal detectors, but not enough to cover all entrances. Even if he had enough metal detectors, he'd have to add personnel to man them.
Henderson says deputies regularly walk the building to make sure all is safe, but a five-story courthouse with courtrooms on three floors is difficult to patrol.
Dan Rowe of Treanor Architects has consulted over possible solutions at the courthouse and county jail for several years. The main courthouse was built in 1930, while the connecting law enforcement center was completed in 1971. The layout of the buildings, which were built in an era where security wasn't an overriding architectural issue, creates numerous challenges.
The courthouse also provides no way of separating jail inmates from the public when deputies walk them to courtrooms for hearings or trials.
Rowe doesn't shy away when asked if there are aspects of the courthouse that are "dangerous."
"I think that this building has those dangers to a degree that it does deserve some addressing," says Rowe. "The timing, the cost, and everything has to be considered in order to get it addressed."
The list of concerns for commissioners to consider is long and not easy to fix. Commissioner Frances Garcia points to cost as the biggest obstacle. A permanent solution to the number of entrances would likely require remodeling the courthouse.
"It's not a matter we're going to drop the ball on," says Garcia. "I'm sure there will be more discussions. It would be wonderful, but the cost right now is prohibitive."
Henderson says there is a misconception that the courthouse hasn't had any incidents that courthouse security could have prevented. Henderson says over the years suspects have twice tried to enter the building with explosives, and an attorney had a knife held to her by a client.