Written by Lance Leonhard
If you haven’t been to the Marathon County Courthouse lately, you might be a bit surprised the next time you stop by.
Brand-new security measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of all those who come to the courthouse by keeping dangerous weapons out.
What you’ll see . . .
A large aluminum and glass enclosure has been constructed inside the west (mall-side) entrance, electrical ports have been installed, and the hardware on exterior doors throughout the courthouse has been replaced. Two metal detectors, one x-ray machine, and a team of three Court Security Deputies now sit inside the west-side doors — the single point of entry for the public and employees.
The planning process . . .
Planning for the project began in April 2017, after all judges, the District Attorney, the Sheriff, Court Commissioners, and others authored a letter expressing that increased safety measures at the courthouse were urgently needed. The County Board’s Public Safety Committee reviewed the letter and, after receiving information from the U.S. Marshall’s Office on court security, directed the Sheriff’s Office and County Administration:
“to implement an immediate and long-term plan for adequate safety for staff and the public in the courthouse.”
After receiving its charge from the Public Safety Committee, a team of personnel from the Sheriff’s Office and Marathon County’s Facilities & Capital Management Department went immediately to work. The team developed a plan that provides for a single point of entry and individual screening, similar to what you might see at an airport — however, you shouldn’t have to take off your shoes.
The challenges of working within the confines of a decades-old facility required ingenuity and individualized solutions, but the group was up to the task!
The result . . .
You’ll find a comprehensive design that provides for sophisticated weapons screening, while continuing to ensure that Marathon County’s Courthouse remains fully accessible to everyone.
Our court security plan and screening station was put in place after clear direction from the County Board:
Keep weapons out, but not at the expense of giving the public open access to our courts and other county departments.
I believe that through a lot of careful planning and by working with our Facilities & Capital Management Department, we’ve been able to do just that.
So, what do you need to know when you come to the courthouse now?
- You need to be aware of changes in parking — The doors on the east side of the building (across from the R-Store gas station on the corner of N. 6th and Forest St.) are now used only as emergency exits, so the public must enter the building from the west entrance (same side as the mall). Use the parking lot on the west side of the building or, if it’s full, use the parking ramp on the corner of N. 5th St. and Forest St., attached to the Wausau Center Mall.
If you have any doubt, follow the signs around the exterior of the courthouse. All exterior signage has been updated to reflect the recent changes.
- You need to know when and where you can get in the building — The courthouse is open to the public from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and you must enter through the main doors on the west side of the building.
- You need to know what you can’t bring into the building — Just like going through airport security, our security screening is all about keeping weapons out. So, all weapons (firearms, knives, tasers, martial arts weapons, chemical mace/pepper spray, batons, etc.) and items that could readily be used as a weapon or that have no reason to be in the courthouse and may be a nuisance (skateboards, bicycles, etc.) are not allowed in the building.
To keep weapons out, you’re going to see security staff use a lot of the same tools you see at the airport — metal detectors to walk through and an x-ray machine to screen bags.
If you ever have any question about whether a certain item is allowed into the courthouse, feel free to contact the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office Court Security Office at 715-261-1313. The full Courthouse Screening and Controlled Access Policy is also available online at the Marathon County website and on the Sheriff’s Office homepage.
4. You might want to give yourself a few extra minutes to park and get through security. While there are plenty of spots to park in the mall parking ramp and the wait to get through security is most often no longer than a minute or two, we want you to make it your meeting, court hearing, or other appointment on time, so it’s best to give yourself an extra 10 minutes.
Finally, you need to know that nothing in the policy is going to limit the access people need to the courthouse and the services we provide. In fact, working through this process is causing us to take a good look at how we deliver our services, and at the end of our work, I’m confident that the public is going to have more opportunities to access our services, not fewer.
We’re relocating some of our jail administration offices to be more efficient and available, and we’re examining ways to make our online resources even more accessible!
Q. Are the new security measures going to be an inconvenience?
A. Without question.
Increased security is always inconvenient. But we owe it to all those who come to the courthouse — litigants, jurors, staff, and the public — to provide them with a safe environment. The new measures strike the right balance: doing what we can to keep weapons out, while continuing to offer the public full access to all the services we provide.
Since public screening began on Wednesday, August 9, 2017, our security officers have screened an average of over 700 people each day.
In the first 5 days of operation, 78 knives (including the credit card knife in the x-ray image below shared by the Sheriff’s Office), 12 canisters of pepper spray, brass knuckles, and numerous other prohibited items (including 2 handcuff release keys) were kept out of the courthouse.
It’s important to note that virtually all of these items were prohibited for years under our old policy.
Our new courthouse security screening has not resulted in any individual being barred from entering the building… It’s merely kept a great many items out of the courthouse, which certainly makes the building much safer for everyone inside.
Marathon County Deputy Administrator
Lance Leonhard began his career in Marathon County government in the Office of Corporation Counsel and currently serves as the Marathon County Deputy Administrator. Lance’s career in public service has spanned more than a decade, having worked for the federal government as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and for the state of Wisconsin as an Assistant District Attorney. Outside of work, you’re likely to find Lance spending time with his family, traveling, teeing off on a local golf course, or sitting around a campfire with friends. Email Lance Leonhard
You might also like…
- Marathon County Wheel Tax Update & Invitation for Feedback
- Tell Me Something I Don’t Know About… RIB MOUNTAIN
- Warbird Rendezvous at Central Wisconsin Airport Supports Local Veterans
Please email our Editorial Board with your comments, suggestions, and article ideas.
And if you spot a typo or an inaccuracy, please contact us so we can fix it. Thanks!