Courthouse options presented to commissioners

February 19, 1998


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Frederick, Md., firm has completed a space allocation study on the Berkeley County Courthouse and presented the Berkeley County Commission with three long-term options, the least expensive of which would cost $3 million.

The Commission won't plunge into any of the project options immediately.

"Right now, whatever we do will probably be short-term fixes," Commissioner Robert L. Burkhart said Thursday.

After reviewing the layout of the existing building on King and Queen streets, Michael Proffitt of Proffitt & Pryor Architects said the Commission could:

* Renovate the existing building for conversion into county offices and construct a new courthouse.

* Renovate the courthouse and construct a new county office building.

* Raze the next-door circuit court building and construct a major addition.

The Commission will meet with Proffitt Wednesday to discuss the options, get more information and set short-term goals.


"The first thing is to go room to room for space allocation," Burkhart said. "Then we go from there."

Proffitt said the most cost-effective project would be to convert the courthouse into office space and to build a new one, but the commissioners aren't sold on the idea.

"There are a number of reasons" why the commission has hesitations, said County Administrator Deborah Sheetenhelm. "Of course, there are the financial concerns."

The Commission has $300,000 available for renovations.

Another concern is preserving the architectural and historical integrity of the building.

The courthouse is in compliance with building codes, but will likely be out of compliance if it undergoes a massive renovation project, Sheetenhelm said.

The lack of emergency exits and handicapped-accessible bathrooms are potential violations.

The open stairwell can act as a chimney during a fire, he said.

The study was part of an ongoing effort to accommodate the court offices, which have outgrown the 106-year-old courthouse.

The fiduciary's, prosecuting attorney's and county clerk's offices are the agencies most sorely in need of more space.

Once the commissioners decide on a plan, the work will be done in phases, which could include adding an elevator to make upper floors handicapped-accessible and adding a walkway from the courthouse building to the circuit court building.

"These are the three options we can start with and from there we can modify," Sheetenhelm said. "Those are the three perfect world modifications."

The renovation will likely be a five- to 10-year project, Sheetenhelm said.

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