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County will seek concealed-carry exemption

11/19/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

The Ellis County Commission approved a resolution in Monday's meeting at the Ellis County Courthouse to seek a four-year exemption of the concealed carry law, passed by the state Legislature, which enables concealed carry in public buildings. Presently, the county has a six-month exemption.

In the meantime, also as part of the resolution, the county will seek to arrange a representative of Homeland Security meet with county staff to discuss security measures.

The plan is for the courthouse and Law Enforcement Center to be a secure location, with one entry point into the building, where there would be two security guards. The question commissioners pondered Monday was what to do with other county buildings.

"We can do it at the courthouse, cut back to one entrance," Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund told commissioners. "I don't know what you do when you have a building like the (new) EMS building or Public Works, where you have garages."

Sund said members of county staff are concerned about security.

"We have staff who feel we should be providing added security at all of our buildings," he said.

"If you're going to do it at the courthouse, at some point, you've got to do it at the administrative offices," Commissioner Swede Holmgren said.

Sund said that isn't necessarily the case and addressed the larger issue of effectiveness of threat prevention.

"I think you have to work on what you think the threat is, and what the potential is in each of those buildings and look at them," Sund said. "Someone who is really dedicated to doing something can walk in with a bomb, walk in with an automatic weapon, take out the guards and keep going."

Sund also said there is the issue of some county employees who want to be able to carry weapons as well.

"The other side of it is that we have a human resource policy that says employees cannot carry on the job," Sund said. "So there's people saying if we're going to allow the public to do it, we should allow employees to do it."

Commissioners favored applying for the four-year exemption, even though Sund had doubts about being able to comply with the law, which mandates "adequate security" at buildings to prevent concealed carry into them.

"Chances are we aren't going to be able to afford providing the adequate security written into the law," Sund said.

"At least by applying for the exemption, we're talking about making some movement towards figuring out the security," Commissioner Barbara Wasinger said.

Commissioners also approved by 2-1 vote awarding the low bid for the purchase of a Jaws of Life hydraulic rescue unit to TNT Rescue Systems of El Reno, Okla., for $26,660.

Wasinger favored purchasing the equipment, but voted against the resolution due to the bid process. Bids were solicited from the two known dealers in the area, instead of an open bid.

"We still may have gotten only two bids," Wasinger said. "But we, as a government, go to two people specifically -- that's not good business for us to do.

"The process blows my mind. ... If I vote no, it's because of the process."

In other business:

* County Treasurer Ann Pfeifer said tax statements are being printed, and taxpayers should receive them by Thanksgiving. They should be available online today, she said.

* Commissioners approved a resolution authorizing Ellis County Rural Fire Chief Dick Klaus to solicit bids for a new or used utility vehicle.

* Commissioners approved a resolution to purchase reinforced concrete boxes to replace the wood structure of a culvert on the 1000 block of Saline River Road from McPherson Concrete for $21,271.

* Commissioners were updated on the cost of a bidirectional antenna to be placed atop the Law Enforcement Center. The cost has been reduced from approximately $28,000 to $8,000.

* Commissioners went into executive session to discuss draft agreements on Buckeye Wind Project. No action was taken. Commissioners also went into executive session to discuss personnel issues. No action was taken.