court house

CORY BYKNISH | Herald file

MERCER — The Mercer County Commissioners are exploring the possibility of employing external security contractors to operate the security screening device at the courthouse entrance.

The commissioners opened two bids from Allegheny County-based companies for the security service at their meeting Thursday.

County Controller Thomas Amundsen said the two companies — Am-Gard security of Pittsburgh and RIP USA of West Mifflin — had significant differences in their bids.

Am-Gard placed a bid of $24.40 an hour, $1,545.65 a week, $6,697.82 a month and $80,373 a year, with additional costs of $296.40 a month or $16.75 an hour if the security officers had health benefits.

RIP USA’s bid called for paying $27 an hour per screener and $40.50 an hour per screener on overtime, with an annual maximum increase of 10 percent.

The controller’s office and county Solicitor William Madden will review the bids before recommending approval to the commissioners.

Commissioner Scott Boyd said the financial review would determine whether the county will contract out the screener service.

Under the proposal, the contracted screeners would operate the scanner machine and metal detector, with an armed sheriff’s deputy present whenever the building was open.

“That’s assuming that the bids today show a savings to county taxpayers,” he said.

On Thursday, the county had three deputies operating the courthouse security devices, which were installed on Sept. 16, without previous warning.

The presence of screening devices had been a point of contention for years in the courthouse prior to the installation. Boyd and fellow Commissioner Tim McGonigle both announced their support in August for instituting single-point entry and metal detecting devices at the courthouse.

Until the security measures were imposed, visitors to the courthouse could enter the building from either North Diamond Street or South Diamond Street. The North Diamond entrance is now closed.

The third commissioner, Chairman Matt McConnell, voted against the security additions, but promised to support their installation.

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