Commission to seek land for county offices

June 04, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

The Jefferson County Commission voted 3-2 Thursday morning to seek proposals for a new site and possibly a new building for government offices despite pleas to keep the offices in downtown Charles Town.

The possibility of moving the offices out of downtown Charles Town to create more office space has been under consideration for more than a month.

Among the space needs facing the county is the need for more courtroom facilities, and some commissioners have said it would be cheaper to build a new facility away from the current cluster of government buildings around the intersection of George and Washington streets.


Some residents are concerned about how moving government offices out of town would affect the vitality of the downtown area.

The latest push to possibly move county offices out of downtown came from Commissioner Jane Tabb Thursday morning.

Considering the cost of building new county offices - estimated at between $24 million and $27 million - the commissioners need to determine the most affordable route, Tabb said.

"It's our duty to explore all the options," Tabb said.

Tabb proposed that the commissioners advertise for proposals from anyone who could offer the county land - and possibly a building - for new county offices.

The county could purchase the land and building or lease it with an option to buy, Tabb said.

If a building is offered, it should be at least 50,000 square feet for the first phase, Tabb said.

The site also should include enough room for parking and possible expansions, Tabb said.

The county may need about 15 acres, said Commission President Al Hooper.

Tabb, and Commissioners James G. Knode and Rusty Morgan voted for Tabb's proposal. Hooper and Commissioner Greg Corliss voted no.

Corliss said it is important to keep county government downtown and referred to a public hearing that was held on the issue April 22.

During that public hearing, two attorneys who work downtown made a plea to the commissioners to leave county government offices in town. Doing otherwise would "create a disaster for Charles Town," said Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson.

"To me, this is just creating a problem," Corliss said.

Although it would be cheaper to build new county offices away from downtown, other factors are involved, said Hooper.

"I'm committed to staying downtown," Hooper said.

Although Tabb's proposal called for any land or buildings to be within Charles Town's city limits, those areas can be a distance from downtown.

Charles Town's city limits stretch as far as the Huntfield development along U.S. 340 south of town and the Charles Town Bypass.

Morgan has expressed concerns about moving county offices from downtown, but said he voted in favor of Tabb's proposal so the commissioners can see all alternatives.

Morgan said he continues to believe that downtown Charles Town is the community's "tribal center" and is where county government belongs.

Some county offices are already being set up for new facilities. Last month, the commissioners decided to construct a building in Bardane, W.Va., to house the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department and the 911 center.

The building will be off Wiltshire Road beside the Jefferson County Health Department.

The two departments needed a new building because county officials said the sheriff's department along West Washington Street in Charles Town is not a good location and the 911 center is running out of space.

How they voted:

The Jefferson County Commission voted 3-2 to seek proposals on land and buildings to possibly relocate Jefferson County government buildings.

Yes: Jane Tabb, James G. Knode and Rusty Morgan

No: Greg Corliss and Al Hooper

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