PARIS — Oxford County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the addition of a glass partition in the Superior Court clerks’ office to make it more secure.

The decision days before Superior Court records and clerks move to the South Paris District Court. The two buildings at 26 Western Ave. are separated by a parking lot.

Starting on Thursday, there will be one clerk presiding over both offices to save the state money. The Superior Court office will be staffed on days when that court is in session.

Jeffrey Henthorn, director of court facilities for the state, said the current layout of the Superior Court clerks’ office does not prevent members of the public from going behind the counter. He said that over the years, courthouses in Maine have added barriers such as the glass partitions, which allow the clerks to conduct business.

“There are few locations where we don’t have this kind of inner security arrangement,” Henthorn said. “It helps to create a safer environment for our clerks.”

The modification will include a built-in counter with a glass partition, as well as a wall with a door for card-accessible entry. It may remove the outer door of the records vault to allow more counter space. The project is estimated to cost about $16,000, and Henthorn said the county will not have to pay the bill.

Chairman Steve Merrill said the question of security at the clerks’ office had been raised by the Maine County Commissioners Association before, and he questioned why the state proposal was only reaching Oxford County now. He also asked if there were ways to improve the safety of other county offices within the courthouse. They include the Registry of Deeds East, Register of Probate, and probate court.

Henthorn said his office, which oversees 42 locations in the state, has limited staff and funds. He said screening at entrances is available in all courthouses, but the staff is usually not available to run it full-time. He said the barriers help provide an extra layer of security for people who may act out against the clerks but not have weapons.

Henthorn said the Oxford County courthouses may need more renovations in the future. He said the facilities at both the South Paris District Court and the Oxford County Superior Court are too small.

“There’s a few places that cry out for major work, and I think one of those places is here,” he said.

Henthorn also discussed the possibility of repairs to the courthouse roof and courtroom ceiling. A leak in the roof has damaged two of eight large ceiling panels in the courtroom, which have been removed and covered with plastic for several years.

Henthorn said his office does not usually get involved in external structural repairs, but it would be beneficial to get an estimate on the cost of repair work. He said a similar project in Rockland cost $82,000, with the expenditure split between Knox County and the state. He said he believes a similar repair project could be done in Oxford County in fiscal year 2012, which commences July 1, 2011.

Merrill said there have been attempts to fix the roof, but it has been difficult due to the use of slate tiles. Hazel Paakkonen, a maintenance worker with the county, said there are still leaks from upper level windows and the building’s cupola.

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