YOU ARE HERE: HeraldMail HomeCollectionsJail

Ruling on old jail pushed back again

January 31, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Corliss convinced the rest of the commission Thursday to delay any action on possible demolition of the old county jail until the commissioners further review options available to them and hear from state experts on the issue.

"I don't see there is any hurry to make any decision. I don't think we should be pushed on something we might not want to do," said Corliss, who said he is sympathetic to the idea of saving the jail.

Before Corliss was elected to the commission, the commissioners wanted to tear down the jail at the corner of George and Liberty streets and erect new court offices.


A group of local residents believe the jail should be preserved because of a series of treason trials held in Charles Town for a group of miners involved in a labor uprising in the southern part of the state in 1922.

Local residents Carol Gallant and Jim Whipple appealed to the state Supreme Court of Appeals a Jefferson County Circuit Court decision that allowed demolition of the jail.

Since the high court made its decision, lawyers representing both sides of the case have given different interpretations on how the commission can proceed.

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson, who is representing the commissioners in the case, again briefed the commissioners Thursday on how he views the issue.

Thompson believes the commissioners can proceed on the demolition by taking another vote on the issue.

Tom Michael, a Clarksburg, W.Va.-attorney who is representing Gallant and Whipple, has disagreed with Thompson.

Commissioner Rusty Morgan told Thompson Thursday he has read the Supreme Court decision numerous times "and I don't see it the way you see it. Do we just trust what you say completely?"

Thompson said he has talked to numerous attorneys about the Supreme Court decision and none of them have a problem with his interpretation of the decision.

The commissioners heard comments from Jefferson County Circuit Clerk Patsy Noland, who said a state agency that reviewed the needs of aging courthouses across the state recommended the jail be torn down to make room for new court offices.

Noland said the state Courthouse Facility Improvement Authority has recommended that Jefferson County do more to consolidate its court offices, which are now located in two buildings.

Another issue to consider is that a relatively new court complex across the street from the Jefferson County Courthouse is already running low on file storage space, Noland said.

"There's a lot of issues that need to be worked on," Noland said.

A group of people from the authority came to Jefferson County to assess its court needs, but Morgan questioned how thorough they might have been in understanding the complete picture in Jefferson County.

"Obviously there is a lot of concern about the future of that jail," Morgan said.

Corliss said he wanted more time to review Thompson's recommendations and hopefully have a representative from the Courthouse Facility Improvement Authority appear before the commissioners to explain the authority's rationale for tearing down the jail.

Corliss, Morgan and Commissioner James G. Knode voted to table the issue until next week. Commissioner Al Hooper and Commission President Jane Tabb voted no.

The Herald-Mail Articles