• Lake Co. judge wants tighter security at new courthouse


    LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - The $40 million addition to the Lake County Courthouse is about to open, but before it does, the judges want tighter security.

    Lake County downsized the project to cut costs, but Eyewitness News found out that means it will need more security guards.

    Lake County Circuit Judge Don Briggs fired off a letter to the county manager, spelling out security concerns for the new addition.

    The major expansion of the Lake County courthouse originally had an $80 million price tag.

    Commissioner Jimmy Conner pushed hard to cut costs.

    "$40 million. The downsizing of the project saved $40 million," Conner said.

    The judges say it will leave some holes in courthouse security. In the letter Briggs writes, "the redesign will necessitate a larger security staff to transport prisoners back and forth."

    To meet the need, Sheriff Gary Borders plans to hire six armed guards from a private security firm.

    Lt. John Herrell of Lake County Sheriff's Office said only civil cases will be held in the new building initially.

    In that building, the guards will monitor surveillance cameras, panic buttons and metal detectors.

    The extra manpower will cost taxpayers $230,000 a year.

    The County Commission agreed to give the sheriff the money at a public hearing.

    "For a constitutional officer to be willing to outsource, that tells you the sheriff is trying to be fiscally responsible. That's a big step," Conner said.

    It's still a $200,000 step, but county leaders say that beats paying an extra $40 million.

    Officials said assigning more uniformed deputies to secure the courthouse would have cost $100,000 more than hiring private security guards.

    Sheriff's officials said they will need a few weeks to hire and train them.

    The courthouse addition will likely open in June.

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    Lake Co. judge wants tighter security at new courthouse