The question of funding for security at the new Montezuma County Combined Courthouse led to a lively discussion Monday between Sheriff Steve Nowlin and the county commission.
The administrative supervisor for the sheriff’s office, Wanda Martin, had come seeking support to apply for a $100,000 federal Justice Assistance Grant. Commissioner Keenan Ertel, who frequently voices concerns over unfunded state mandates, suggested the county provide only the amount of security at the new courthouse that the state is willing to pay for. Ertel questioned why the county should be responsible for funding any security at the building, since the courts are state institutions. Ertel asked Nowlin, “Who’s telling you you should provide all this security?” County Commissioner Larry Don Suckla commented that both branches of Congress – which he said have far more reason to fear attack – have just two guards on duty at a time. County attorney John Baxter said security was optional. But Nowlin said he was not providing security for the state, but for the citizens of Montezuma County who utilize the courthouse. He noted that there have been assaults and escapes at the county courthouse in the past. Nowlin also noted that police officers are frequent targets of attack and three have been killed in Colorado in the last month. Ultimately, the commissioners agreed to support the grant request, which was to be increased to $150,000.