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Bailiffs on hold for courthouse

The long-anticipated arrival of two new bailiffs to monitor the main public entrance to the west Pasco County courthouse will be delayed up to a month or more.

Beginning Monday, the bailiffs were to have replaced the unarmed Wells Fargo security guards who now monitor the entrance and who have long been the bane of safety-conscious judges.

But Harold Sample, executive assistant to Sheriff Lee Cannon, said Wednesday those plans have been postponed while other security issues are worked out at the courthouse.

"We want a smooth transition in security," he said. "We want to make one transition."

Specifically, Sample said, county officials are still implementing a card-access system for courthouse employees who need not use the main entrance to be monitored by bailiffs.

He said the county is sorting out who should have card access and who shouldn't. It may take a month or so, he said, to fully implement the system.

Sample denied that the sheriff is having difficulty attracting deputies to fill the new bailiff positions _ positions that may be salaried at a rate of up to $2,000 less than patrol deputies.

"A couple of deputies who have indicated interest have expressed concerns about the pay rate," Sample said. "So we are still evaluating the pay scale and what will be appropriate."

But he said that, even if the sheriff finds it difficult to fill the posting, the job can be assigned if there are no volunteers.

"We can cover the positions," Sample said.

Pasco judges and Cannon have complained that the Wells Fargo guards do not provide adequate security. To demonstrate the point, Bill Lockhart, courts administrator for the circuit, once sneaked an unloaded handgun, packed in a briefcase, into the Dade City courthouse.

The Wells Fargo guards, Lockhart said, briefly looked in the case but missed the weapon, which was packed in a case.

County administrators, after years of debate, finally agreed to provide money for the two new bailiffs in New Port Richey. New bailiffs for the Dade City courthouse, however, must await courthouse renovations. Work is expected to be done by 1999.