By DOTTY NIST
Plans are for a security system identical to the one in operation at the Walton County Courthouse to be put in place at the South Walton Courthouse Annex.
At the Aug. 14 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting, Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson brought forth concerns related to “rancor, vitriole, and hyberbole” observed on the part of people attending BCC meetings in recent months.
Adkinson was quick to say that it is important for citizens to have the ability to express their views, but that the security of everyone attending county meetings is also important.
Adkinson referenced a recent shooting incident at a school board meeting in neighboring Bay County. He also noted that an individual who had attended many Walton County BCC meetings a number of years ago had ended up shooting five people.
In February 2009, Walton County resident Dannie Roy Baker shot five foreign exchange students at a Miramar Beach apartment complex, resulting in the death of two of those people, who were Chilean nationals. In March 2011, Baker was sentenced to life without parole.
Adkinson commented that he believed the commissioners could see that more diligence in providing security at the annex was a “real necessity.”
Members of the public entering the county courthouse in DeFuniak Springs are required to step through a scanner and also have items they are carrying scanned for detection of any weapons. Although Walton County Sheriff’s Office deputies are present at all BCC meetings at the courthouse and at the annex, no scanning system is in place at the annex.
Adkinson said he expected to have funds in his office’s budget sufficient to pay for the installation of a security system identical to the one in place at the courthouse. He also thought that he could provide personnel to operate the system without hiring additional employees, by means of a secondary detail.
District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander asked whether the system would be utilized only for the commission chamber at the annex—or whether it would be located near the front door of the annex to provide security for constitutional officers located within the annex.
Adkinson indicated that his plan would be for the security system to be utilized for all of the annex building.
Asked about the wooden scanner-type object at the entrance to the commission chamber at the annex, Adkinson said it had been purchased in 1986 and was not operational.
Adkinson added that the safety of people with disabilities who attend county meetings is also a concern for him. He said his office had discussed a plan to utilize volunteers and golf carts for transporting these people between their vehicles and the meeting room.
The BCC voted 4-0 to allow staff to work with Adkinson to move forward with the security system for the annex.