MERCER — While examining the issue of single-point entry security in the Mercer County Courthouse, Commissioner Scott Boyd said he has considered the move “inevitable.”
As recently as Monday, though, Boyd said he was still on the fence on the subject of restricting entry into the courthouse. With Commissioners board Chairman Matt McConnell opposed and Commissioner Tim McGonigle in favor, Boyd was positioned to be the tie-breaking vote.
On Thursday, the first-term county commissioner said he would break the tie at the commissioners’ next meeting Sept. 5, when he plans to introduce a resolution for developing security plans at the courthouse.
He said that could include closing off one of the two courthouse entrances and installing a metal detector to screen all visitors.
Boyd said he was acceding to the recommendations of President Judge Robert Yeatts of the Mercer County Court of Common Pleas. Public Safety Director Frank Jannetti, and Sheriff Roni Shilling and her probable successor, Deputy Bruce Rosa.
Rosa is running unopposed for sheriff in the November general election and is all but certain to take office in January.
“Based on the recommendations of our President Judge, the Sheriff’s office, the Public Safety Director, and Homeland Security experts, it appears the time has come, and we are as close to a consensus as we will get,” Boyd said Thursday morning in a statement released to the public.
McConnell, who is in his second term as commissioner, said he would remain opposed to single-point entry, and said it would give visitors and employees a “false sense of security,” but he would work with the other commissioners to implement the security plan approved by the board.
“It will not be a unanimous decision,” he said. “But it will be a collaborative effort.”
He said the county would work with the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, common pleas court, and the sheriff’s office to develop recommendations.
“We’ll do it as efficiently as possible and as cost-effectively as possible.”
Security at Mercer County Courthouse, one of the few county courthouses in Pennsylvania without single-point access and security screening, has been a point of contention for some years. Thomas Dobson, Yeatts’ predecessor as president judge, was opposed to tightening access.
Both Boyd and McGonigle, who are in the final year of their first terms as commissioner, said they accepted Dobson’s recommendation. Yeatts, who became president judge after Dobson’s retirement in 2017, supports single-point access.
Last week, a Sharon man was accused of making a bomb threat at the courthouse, which shifted McGonigle’s opinion.
McGonigle was not immediately available for comment, but he has said previously that he now supports single-point access.
Boyd said he regretted the possibility of putting obstacles in the path of county residents visiting the courthouse and at the prospect of spending taxpayer money to install and maintain single-point access and a screening system.
In his statement, Boyd cited “toxic and inflammatory” internet content, drug and alcohol abuse and publicity of shooting incidents for exacerbating societal pressures and making tighter courthouse security necessary.
“It’s just a reflection on our society,” he said. “That’s sad to see.”
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