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$14.8 million to convert blue ridge outlets into judicial center

February 20, 2002

$14.8 million to convert blue ridge outlets into judicial center



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Turning the former Blue Ridge Outlets into a judicial center is expected to cost about $14.8 million, but the president of the Berkeley County Commission said Tuesday there will be a concerted effort to reduce that amount.

Renovations would be needed to convert the Berkeley Building for use as a judicial center, including enclosing an open space in the middle of the horse-shoe shaped building to make space for courtrooms.

Ken Jendura showed plans describing how the Berkeley Building - one of three buildings in the outlet complex purchased by the county earlier this month - would be re-configured to keep inmates, judicial officials and the public separated.

Some of the beams and other parts of the historic building would remain revealed, as they were when the former mill was an outlet mall, but other parts of the court annex would be divided and enclosed, said Jendura, of Spillis Candela DMJM, an Arlington, Va., firm hired to help develop the court complex project.

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Other needed upgrades include increasing lighting around the facility and replacing the windows with more energy-efficient ones, Jendura said.

The $14.8 million renovation cost was divided into two parts - $12.9 million for construction costs and $1.9 million for "soft costs," which covers items like furniture, permit fees and consulting fees, said Jendura.

Berkeley County Commission President Howard Strauss said county officials will get an exact idea of how much the renovation will cost when they begin going "floor by floor."

There are some ways costs probably can be cut, such as using furniture from existing court facilities, said Strauss.

"Our hope is that we can reduce these numbers considerably," Strauss said during a meeting with Jendura and other court officials Tuesday afternoon.

Strauss said the commissioners will try to get as much money as they can for the renovation from state and federal sources. The commissioners hope to meet with U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. and Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito to explore possible federal funding sources.

Strauss said he expected to meet with Capito Friday at 1 p.m. to take her on a tour of the complex and talk to her about funding.

Any costs that can't be paid for with state and federal funds likely will be funded by local banks selling tax free bonds, said Strauss.

When asked whether the commissioners saw a need to raise taxes for the complex, Strauss deferred the question to Commissioner Robert L. Burkhart, who initially said he saw no reason to raise taxes for the building.

"He will have to be asked that again," said Strauss.

Burkhart, who was not at the meeting, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Strauss said he will recommend to the other two commissioners on Thursday that they consider paying off a loan on two buildings the county owns at 110 and 126 W. King St. to free up money for the judicial center.

The county owes a little more than $400,000 for the buildings, and paying off the loan will save the county about $50,000 in interest, Strauss said.

Many county offices could end up in the Blue Ridge complex, possibly resulting in the county selling a former planning commission office it owns at 202 S. College St., the building where the Berkeley County Prosecutor's office is located at 205 Spring St., the current Berkeley County Planning Commission office at 119 W. King St. and the Berkeley County Magistrate Court building on John Street, said Strauss.

The Berkeley County Clerk's office would remain in the current courthouse at King and Queen streets.

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