PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - Tuesday night, the Portsmouth City Council is set to talk about security measures at the new Portsmouth Judicial Center.
Portsmouth Sheriff Bill Watson who is responsible for securing the courthouse says he can't do it properly with current staff. If the Sheriff gets the extra 28 deputies he says he needs, it will cost Portsmouth taxpayers $1.2 million.
It is not how a courthouse is suppose to operate with prisoners in hallways shoulder to shoulder with the public, but that's the way it is in the old, and what many consider unsafe, Portsmouth City Courthouse.
Captain Brian Smith is in charge of court security.
"I think if we don't get the manpower we requested then it's going to be a potential bomb," Smith said. But, he's not referring to the current courthouse.
Smith is concerned about the brand new, $78 million, mammoth Portsmouth Judicial Center on Port Centre Parkway, which is set to open in Sept.
"It's very much an accident waiting to happen in terms of security. You'll virtually have none," Smith explained.
Smith and the sheriff's office thinks they need 28 more deputies to give proper security to the 207,000 square foot courthouse
"We will be in worse shape there than here if we try to open the courthouse with the manpower we have," Smith added.
"Are they going to get the 28 new deputies? Well, I don't know if they are getting 28," Portsmouth Councilman Steve Heretick said.
The sheriff's office has lobbied Heretick hard for more deputies.
But, the city doesn't have the $1.2 million needed to employ and train nearly 30 new deputies.
During a work session, Portsmouth City Manager Ken Chandler announced former Virginia Beach Sheriff Paul Lantaigne would consult on the courthouse project. Chandler said Lantaigne's contract is for $5,000.
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