ELYRIA —There were no deputies working security at the two locations housing the Lorain County Adult Probation Department on Monday, despite a directive from a county judge to do so.
County Sheriff Phil Stammitti said he lacks the manpower to staff the entrances to the Probation Department offices at the old Lorain County Courthouse and the old Columbia Gas building.
“I don’t have the personnel right now,” Stammitti said.
County Common Pleas Judge James Burge sent Stammitti a letter July 31 directing him to begin providing security screenings at the Probation Department locations by Monday. Burge said the additional security was the result of a confidential security assessment conducted by the Ohio Supreme Court that mandated the changes.
Stammitti had complained last week that he hadn’t been provided with a copy of the Supreme Court report, but he said he and several members of his senior staff reviewed the document Monday. That review took place during a meeting with county Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski and General Division Court Administrator Tim Lubbe.
“It was a very productive meeting, and we’re making progress on resolving some of our dilemmas,” Lubbe said.
Betleski, who serves on the Courthouse Security Committee, said he understands the limitations Stammitti is under right now and believes it is largely a budgetary issue that will ultimately fall in the laps of the county commissioners.
“We’re going to need the cooperation of the commissioners, and we just can’t be certain that’s going to happen,” he said.
Commissioner Ted Kalo said no one has talked to him about expending additional funds on more deputies and equipment for the security upgrades. He also said that the full Courthouse Security Committee has to approve any changes before they can be implemented.
Kalo said he isn’t sure where the additional money will come from.
“Any time the courts insist on additional funding that isn’t budgeted, it has to come from somebody else’s budget,” he said.
The commissioners and judges have been locked in a dispute over the location of the Probation Department offices for months.
The judges want to combine the two locations by building out the unfinished fifth floor of the Lorain County Justice Center, a plan Kalo and Commissioner Lori Kokoski have rejected as too expensive.
The commissioners had suggested a Broad Street location, but the judges and Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda have said they don’t like the idea of probationers congregating downtown on a daily basis.
The judges have complained that the old courthouse is full of environmental problems, including mold, asbestos and lead paint, although the commissioners have said the problems might not be as bad as the judges contend.
The judges also have said moving the Probation Department to the Justice Center would eliminate the need for additional security at the other two locations because those entering the Justice Center must pass through metal detectors and put their possessions through X-ray machines.
Stammitti said he can’t say exactly how many additional deputies would be necessary to bring the Probation Department offices up to the security standards the judges want.