MOULTRIE -- As the fiscal year closes down, Colquitt County is again relying on reserves to make ends meet, and next year's budget promises to be tight as well.
That led commissioners to groan Tuesday night as Sheriff Al Whittington explained the chief Superior Court judge's plan to overhaul courthouse security.
The county already has approved an investment of more than $48,000 in sales tax money for an x-ray machine, an in-house metal detector and the replacement of wooden holding cell doors with metal ones. Tasers and new leg irons will be drawn out of the general fund at a cost of $1,800 more. Also, the county is spending $7,908 from sales tax revenues to fortify the outer doors of the old courthouse.
Even with these purchases, the county's actions might not be enough to meet the expectations of the Southern Circuit's chief judge, H. Arthur McLane. In Quitman Tuesday, the judge illustrated his point by brandishing a pistol -- one of several weapons planted at the Brooks County Courthouse, lying undisturbed for a week.
"There's going to be some expenses coming," Whittington warned the commission.
The board was hoping to place the machines on the third floor at the courthouse entrance, but the sheriff said the equipment might not fit on that floor.
And since the chief judge wants only one entrance into the building, all doors but one on the ground floor would be locked, Whittington said, and that is where McLane would like to see the equipment installed to check anyone who enters the courthouse.
The sheriff, he said, anticipates a "lot of flak" from the public in the judge's proposal.
There are concerns about fire safety and practicality with county employees entering and exiting the building.
And although the commission hasn't so far agreed to fund additional deputies, the equipment the county plans to buy must be run by somebody, Whittington said. That would require extra deputies stationed at the courthouse.
Chairman Max Hancock was the most vocal about the judge's proposal, saying the proposal is the result of one random violent act -- the March escape of a defendant at the Fulton County Courthouse, which left a judge, a deputy, a court reporter and a federal agent dead.
"They overreact to the point they're going to bleed us dry," he said, referring generally to higher governmental entities that impose unfunded mandates.
Whittington relayed that McLane told other county commissioners that one lawsuit against the county would likely exceed the expense of added security.