Will County will beef up security at its administration building in downtown Joliet by once again having a sheriff’s deputy armed with a gun.
The busy two-story office building, at 302 N. Chicago St, where the county board meets and where residents get marriage licenses, vote and pay taxes, is currently patrolled by a private security guard armed with a Taser.
The plan to add a deputy armed with a gun next month was not prompted by any incident, officials said.
“It’s just the environment we live in,” said Nick Palmer, chief of staff for County Executive Larry Walsh.
“People are looking for a higher level of security with shootings happening around the country,” he said.
Sheriff’s deputies typically attend county board meetings now, and they previously provided security at the county building. But the previous sheriff, Paul Kaupus, pulled them off that assignment because he needed them to patrol the streets, he said.
The current guard will depart when his contract expires Dec. 1, Palmer said.
Having part-time deputies provide security during regular business hours and after hours meetings is a “very cost effective” solution, he said. The estimated $55,000 cost is “not much more” than the county now pays the private security guard.
But having a private security firm provide armed guards was too expensive, he said, adding that they are “more comfortable” with a sheriff’s deputy who is “fully trained.”
Because of the number of people who come to this building, Palmer said they are “not done with security enhancements,” but he declined to be specific.
Some officials would like to see metal detectors or hand held wands, but “to go through that to pay taxes or get a birth certificate is a bit much,” he said.
County employees are encouraged to wear identification badges on lanyards to distinguish them from the public, he said.
There is no plan to allow county board members, who have concealed carry permits, to bring guns into the building, Palmer said. That is currently banned.
This summer, board member Steve Balich proposed a resolution to allow elected officials to carry concealed firearms in to county and forest preserve properties, believing that it could save the county money.
A potential shooter could easily spot a uniformed officer, but would not know which board members were packing a gun, Balich reasoned. His resolution was never acted upon.