Day one of new courthouse security procedures due to budget cuts, was not a smooth one for Winnebago County. Long lines Monday morning prevented lawyers, jurors and many others from getting inside on time and left elderly and disabled people to wait in the cold.
Long lines of people could be seen outside waiting to get into the Winnebago County Courthouse. The line formed at 8am and lasted for more than an hour and a half. The line was stretching out the door and down the block rounding Church Street. All of them were waiting to pass through metal detectors. Among those in line were attorneys and jurors.
“We experienced the first and most visible consequence of the county board’s budget cut to the Sheriff’s budget,” said 17th Judicial Circuit Court Chief Judge Joe McGraw. “Certainly, the first and most visible, but not the last.”
A new ‘no bags’ rule which took effect Monday morning was meant to help keep the flow of people moving. However, with much of the public unaware of the rule, it did just the opposite, resulting in a slower start to the day.
“Those coming for jury duty got up to the jury assembly room later. Trials started later. Court calls started later.”
Photos of the lines were posted on Facebook by angry courthouse visitors. One of them was Antonio. He stood in line for about 40 minutes and was surprised when he showed up to the courthouse and was greeted with a long line. Antonio asked security officers why there was such a long line. He says they told him, “budget cuts.”
“I had to sit in line, just standing being cold… waiting,” said Antonio.
But, like many others in line, Frank Zimmerman also had to wait. Zimmerman was surprised that budget cuts would so severely impact courthouse security.
“You would think that this would be one of the things that they would keep intact because it’s everyday occurrences,” said Zimmerman.
The Winnebago County Sheriffs Department and the County Courthouse are working together to find out what caused such a long delay to get the line moving faster. Officials suggest bringing inside only what visitors need.