Courthouse safety, cybersecurity are county concerns

Buck Collier
Special Correspondent

Cybersecurity — especially as it relates to the elections process — was a primary topic at the recent Missouri County Clerks’ Association Conference, according to Gasconade County Clerk Lesa Leitzow.

She was telling Gasconade County Commissioners meeting Thursday at Owensville’s City Hall that cybersecurity also was a chief topic of the statewide conference of county Emergency Management Agency personnel.

“It’s a big thing,” Leitzow said of the effort to protect government agencies’ computer systems.

The clerk and her staff attended the annual gathering and also heard a presentation on active-shooter drills that are held in county courthouses and other public buildings.

The Henry County Sheriff’s Department conducts the exercises, Leitzow noted, and it was that agency that spoke to the county clerks.

There has been a growing call from Gasconade County Courthouse administrative employees and some law enforcement personnel for increased security measures in the two-story building, which has become considerably more crowded within the past year as several of the county’s municipalities have shifted their Municipal Court cases to the county’s Associate Circuit Court.

After initial discussions between the Commission and Sheriff John Romanus about active-shooter training exercises, there has been no action taken. The Sheriff’s Department is reluctant to move forward with scheduling drills until a formal policy on security is adopted by the Commission. The commissioners, in turn, say they are hesitant to craft a formal policy without input from the sheriff.

“I thought he was going to give us some guidance,” said Lairmore.

Also, the Southern District associate commissioner said he would talk with Owensville city government leaders about a new cost-sharing program that might be applicable for a requested upgrade to a portion of Baker Road.

Resident Jim Frye Thursday asked the County Commission if the county could chip-and-seal the remaining gravel portion of the road, which dead ends at the city’s wastewater lagoon. A portion of the road has received a chip-and-seal coating.

Lairmore explained to Frye that before a plan moves forward with coating a road, there must be adequate right-of-way acquired from property owners along the road. The road then would be placed on the list for upgrade. That list is crowded and it could take a while for a road to receive a chip-and-seal coat.

“We do have other roads on the list,” Lairmore said. “I can’t tell you if it’s two years, five years or 20 years.”

Although Frye told the Commission he had obtained pledges of financial support for such a project from fellow property owners, Lairmore said the cost-sharing program might allow the two local governments to avoid relying on private dollars. Lairmore said he is fundamentally opposed to requiring property owners to help fund such upgrades to public roads.