The Sampson County Board of Commissioners is at a crossroads when it comes to security — of its government campuses and its courthouses — and it’s likely no matter what road members opt to travel, there will be bumps along the way.
But when it comes to the safety of county employees and Sampson citizens, we believe there’s really only one road the county can head down even if that road has financial hurdles to cross.
Those hurdles, possibly fraught with difficult decisions, are better to deal with now than they will in a knee-jerk reaction to some tragedy that could befall Sampson County in the future, an always possible scenario no matter how much we hope it doesn’t occur.
But government leaders aren’t charged with banking on hopes; they are charged with planning for the future and the real possibilities that exist, hoping and praying for the best but preparing for the worst.
So it is this budget year as commissioners face impending decisions on notching up security at its courthouses and what added safety measures to put into place at various county agencies. Those decisions don’t come without price tags, something that brings its own kind of pain, particularly during a year when the county is already facing added debt and a desire by most commissioners to avoid a tax hike.
Perhaps its possible to tackle the serious challenges before the commissioners without raising taxes, but even if it’s not, the board has to do more than take a serious look at security issues around them this time around, and we believe they must take definitive steps to resolve some of the concerns.
The courthouse security issue has been on the board’s radar for more than two years, with few real measures taken to alleviate what law enforcement and court officials perceive as very real problems that could escalate into dangerous situations.
The board has taken its time to study the matter carefully, weighing the options, the costs and all sides of the issue, avoiding quick fixes and extreme expense, a thoughtful manner we applaud.
We’ve even been hesitant to recommend moving forward with security measures, knowing that doing so will come with a price tag the county has been hard-pressed to afford during the tough economic times of the past few years.
But very real incidents like those that have taken place in Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn. are painful reminders that while we would like to think that those kind of tragedies will always happen somewhere else to someone else, they could just as easily happen here.
And while we acknowledge that no amount of security will ever prevent every lunatic bent on death and destruction from accomplishing his goal, we should not bury our heads in the sand and ignore measures that might make a difference somewhere down the road.
It’s true with courthouse security and it’s true with tighter safety measures on government campuses, where very real, and scary, scenarios have already played out, albeit without serious harm.
But we can’t plan as if good fortune is always going to shine down on our county, although we pray to God it will.
The time has come for commissioners to do more than discuss security. It is now time to act.