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Security prevents loaded firearms and nearly 2,000 knives from courthouse in past year

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WAUSAU — One year after a security initiative launched at the Marathon County Courthouse, officials said staff has prevented thousands of prohibited items from entering the courthouse including two loaded firearms, according to the Marathon County Sheriff’s Department.

The screening began Aug. 9, 2017, four months after five judges, along with Marathon County Sheriff Scott Parks, District Attorney Theresa Wetzsteon, Corporation Counsel Scott Corbett and other courthouse officials sent a letter to County Administrator Brad Karger, Board Chairman Kurt Gibbs and then-Vice-Chair Lee Peek requesting the change.

The Marathon County Sheriff’s Department posted an update on their Facebook page outlining the effort to mark the one-year anniversary of the security upgrades.

“In the last year, our security staff have screened 203,788 people entering the courthouse,” the post reads. “As a result, they have prevented 1,983 knives, 148 canisters of pepper spray, 2 loaded firearms, 20 rounds of ammunition (in addition to the 2 loaded firearms), 1 firearm component, 15 impact weapons, 18 pieces of drug paraphernalia, 2 items containing illegal drugs, and 502 other prohibited items (scissors, hand cuff keys, alcoholic beverages, etc.) from entering the courthouse.”

Officials say they have had more OWI, alcohol and drug-related arrests from the courthouse complex in the past year due to the upgrades.

“Thank you for your patience during the implementation of the new procedures, and thank you to our security staff who have worked hard to increase the safety of the courthouse,” the post reads.

As part of the upgrade, entry to the courthouse can only be made through a single entrance on the west side of the building. Entrants must pass through metal detectors and put purses, briefcases, backpacks and other bags through an X-ray machine, similar to machines used at airport screening locations.The public entrance is open and staffed from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Courthouse employees can enter an employees-only entrance from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. but must otherwise use the public entrance.

The structural changes alone cost taxpayers about $300,000, funds that came from the county’s contingency budget.

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