MERCER — In what Commissioner Matt McConnell called a cost-saving measure and effective allocation of sheriff’s deputies, Mercer County hired Am-Gard security company to staff the entry screening station at the county courthouse.

“We’ll be able to free up the cost and free up the deputies to do the job they were hired to do,” said McConnell, commissioners’ chairman.

Mercer County will pay Am-Gard security guards a base wage of $16.27 an hour and $16.75 for guards who qualify for health care benefits. The county’s 2020 budget calls for a base wage ranging from $23.16 to $25.93 an hour for sheriff’s department deputies.

McConnell said the Am-Gard staff would be used on an as-needed basis, with at least one armed sheriff’s deputy manning the station whenever the courthouse is open to the public.

During high-traffic periods, the county could need additional staff at the building’s single entry point, with fewer workers necessary at slower times.

“There’s going to be certain times when we are going to need more,” McConnell said. “There are going to be certain times when we need less.”

During early afternoon Thursday, there were three deputies at the entry screening station.

Mercer County adopted single-point entry with a metal detecting screening device in September for the courthouse. Previously, the building had two entrances open to the public and was among the last courthouses in Pennsylvania to resist employing metal detectors at a single entrance.

Commissioner Tim McGonigle said Am-Gard, based in Pittsburgh, has other contracts in Mercer County, which means the company is able to easily place guards at the courthouse, even on short notice.

The contract includes a 30-day opt-out for the county.

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