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Jail arguements made in high court

The state's highest court will rule on an appeal by two county residents to prevent the old jail from being razed.

The state's highest court will rule on an appeal by two county residents to prevent the old jail from being razed.

October 10, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The state Supreme Court of Appeals Wednesday heard oral arguments regarding an appeal to a proposal to tear down the former Jefferson County Jail.

Clarksburg attorney Tom Michael appeared before the high court in Charleston Wednesday morning to present his case on behalf of Carol Gallant and Jim Whipple, two Jefferson County residents who are fighting a proposal by the Jefferson County Commission to tear down the old jail at the corner of George and Washington streets.

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson presented the commissioners' case to the court, said Redonna Thompson, assistant clerk for the Supreme Court of Appeals.

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The Supreme Court of Appeals could issue a decision on the appeal any time between now and the end of the term of the high court on Dec. 31, Redonnna Thompson said.

Jefferson County Commissioner James G. Knode said he was encouraged to learn the court could make a decision during the current term, but was concerned it could take longer.

In the meantime, any plans for the jail are on hold, Knode said.

The commission wants to tear down the jail and create additional court space, which is at a premium in the county.

A $2 million court complex was built across the street from the jail, but earlier this year, one of the county's magistrates said court officials are already running out of room in the building.

Magistrate Gail Boober appeared before the Jefferson County Commission in April to complain about the situation after she had to scramble to find a place to hold court.

Boober said she had to find another place to hold court because Berkeley County Circuit Court Judge David Sanders took over one of the courtrooms in the new complex to hear a case.

Jefferson County Commission President James K. Ruland told Boober that the commissioners wanted to tear down the jail and erect additional court offices, but they could not do so since the court appeal had been filed.

Gallant and Whipple say the jail should be saved because it has historical significance, namely a treason trial held there for a United Mine Workers official in 1922.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. originally halted the demolition of the jail until the state Division of Culture and History could review the project.

Steptoe then ruled the commissioners could tear down the jail because a bill recently passed in the Legislature freed county governments from a requirement to conduct such historical reviews.

Neither Thompson nor Michael could be reached for comment Wednesday.

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