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Jeffco planning $500,000 security revamp at Taj Mahal

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By Emile Hallez

  Jefferson County is spending $500,000 to beef up security at the Taj Mahal in response to increased court traffic and in anticipation of three additional judges who are scheduled to arrive next year.

New magnetometers, or walk-through metal detectors, X-ray belts and a shuffling of desks and other structures in the building’s atrium are among the security revamp. The rise in court demands is also prompting the county to relocate victim-witness and pretrial services locations to the administrative side of the building, where no security screening is currently in place.

“We’re short on courtrooms now, and we’re due to receive three more judges,” District Attorney Scott Storey said. Two additional district judges and one county-court judge are set to have courtrooms in the building in 2011. The judges were originally due to arrive later this year, but state budget issues pushed the date back by about a year.

Court security screening currently includes two lines of magnetometers and X-ray belts. The new plan, for which Jeffco is paying Fentress Architects more than $23,000 to design, will replace the existing equipment with three new lines of each screening device, with space designated for a fourth line to be added LAter. The existing information desk near the atrium’s main entrance will also be relocated.

The cost of the new plan includes $300,000 allotted for new equipment and $191,000 to move existing structures. The county does not anticipate hiring additional security staff.

“It won’t require more employees,” Storey said, noting that the revamp is a more cost-effective way to increase court space without additional construction. The victim-witness and pretrial services areas are being moved to make way for the new courtrooms.

The new security plan will still allow visitors to enter the administrative side of the building without going through security checkpoints. People entering the new victim-witness and pretrial services areas will be screened and will not have to go through another security line before going to the courts.

“Now we’re going to have offenders milling around on the admin side,” Storey said of the new pretrial services location. “Those are folks you want to make sure go through security screening.”

About 530,000 people passed through the building’s security checkpoint last year, up from about 480,000 in 2008, the county estimated.

The county is looking to hire an outside contractor to complete the security revamp. A contract has not been assigned, though Jeffco anticipates the project could be finished by late August.

 

Contact Emile Hallez Williams at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.