AUBURN — A new initiative that will drastically heighten security inside the Androscoggin County Courthouse began as a cleanup project.

County Commissioner Elaine Makas, who heads the buildings safety committee, wanted to find some place to store a canvas-covered contraption that had been sitting idle in the courthouse’s main hall.

“I was concerned that someone was going to trip over that covering,” said Makas, who heads the building’s safety committee. “I said, ‘What is this thing and where can we put it?’”

Instead, she discovered that her “hallway Goliath” — a working X-ray scanner like those used to inspect bags at airports — could be put to use.

She linked up with Michael Coty, the director of Judicial Marshals and Emergency Services for Maine’s courts. Though the machine was only used a few times to augment security for high-profile trials, it could be used much more, she learned. Meanwhile, the state was already in the process of upgrading court security across Maine.

It all came together.


Beginning at the end of June, visitors entering the Civil War-era building will face the scanner, a metal detector and court officers. They’ll also be limited to a single entrance, forcing people to climb the tall, granite staircase at the front of the building rather than entering one of several other doors.

“You can come here. You can stop by,” Makas said. ” You can pay a fine. You can look up your deed. You can sit in on one of county commission meetings and not have to worry about somebody who is wandering around who is a danger to people.”

Necessary modifications have already begun.

David Cote, the county’s facilities manager, has torn out parts of the hallway that pass the sheriff’s office. He plans to install a new security door and tile. It will be followed by security keypads and new locks on many doors.

The county is paying for most of the physical changes, using $12,000 budgeted for the work late last year. The state court system will be paying a share of the physical changes and the entire cost of staffing the entrance with court officers.

It won’t be a full-time switch. Officials plan to stagger the presence at two of three times a week, though some weeks might have no boosted security and others may have officers at the door for five days straight.


For county workers, the impact will be small.

They will be issued swipe cards to use some of the doors, bypassing the scanners and detectors. Makas plans to send a letter outlining changes for employees this week.

Her hope is to keep the impact relatively small for visitors, too.

“Sensitive work goes on here,” she said of the courthouse. “It deserves care and safety.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.