PARIS — The Oxford County sheriff and the county treasurer are asking commissioners to make security and privacy at the Oxford County Courthouse a top priority this year.

During a meeting of department heads Tuesday, Sheriff Wayne Gallant pressed commissioners again for better security in the county’s offices on Western Avenue.

“We’ve really got to look at securing this building and protecting the employees who work in this building,” Gallant said.

“We’re living in a different world, we’re living in a more violent world,” he said. “We have people coming to public meetings and public places and doing harm to people. I hope we can really look at it this year and try to be more proactive.”

The county offices, like many public buildings in the area, are fairly open and unsecured.

This past October, department heads told commissioners that building security was a concern, highlighting the absence of security personnel at probate court hearings, multiple entrances and exits and poor lighting in the Western Avenue building, originally built in the 19th century. Similar concerns were raised by employees three years ago.

Commissioner David Duguay said the county should start improving building security right away, and suggested fellow commissioners Steven Merrill and Caldwell Jackson tour the building with Gallant at the next commissioners meeting to identify areas where it could be improved.

“If we don’t start now, nothing’s going to happen until 2015,” Duguay said.

There could be grant money available to purchase security equipment like closed-circuit cameras, said Emergency Management Agency Director Allison Hill, but time to apply is running out and the money may not be available by August.

In an interview Wednesday, county Administrator Scott Cole said he and Gallant intend to review what work has already been compiled on building security and see where more can be done.

County Treasurer Roy Gedat also addressed privacy concerns at the Treasurer’s Office during the commissioners meeting Tuesday.

According to Gedat, his office is situated in a “bullpen” style setup in a direct line of sight of visitors coming into the office, which makes them the first employees many approach when they arrive.

Not only are the interruptions distracting, but the three members of his office also deal with sensitive personal information, including financial information from payroll. Gedat said he thought it was inappropriate that employees did not have a private place in which to raise concerns or ask questions about paychecks or other information.

Although he did not have a specific proposal in mind to address the issue, it is time commissioners address the issue, Gedat said.

“I think your concerns come at an appropriate time in terms of courthouse security that we’re going to be dealing with,” Commissioner Merrill said. “Maybe we could put it all under one project.”

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