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Berkeley Co. judicial center rounding into shape

October 28, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Progress on the county's $20 million judicial center continues to move forward, with precast concrete pieces now offering a glimpse of how the facade of the building will look when it opens next summer.

Matthew Hjermstad, with DMJMH+N, the design firm overseeing the project, said the facility is about 65 percent to 70 percent complete and that it is starting to take on a "monumental" appearance that is appropriate for a courthouse.

Workers on Thursday were using cranes to lift precast concrete pieces into place on the building's facade. Each of the larger pieces weighs 90,000 pounds, Hjermstad said.

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The precast pieces were scheduled to already be in place for a tour of the building Thursday, but rain delayed that progress.

Inside the building, walls are in place and an additional stairway is being built.

Berkeley County Commissioner Howard Strauss said the building is on track to open next summer. He recently met with Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes to finalize details, including when specific offices should be moved and in which order.

Wilkes' courtroom, and those of the two other Circuit Court judges who oversee cases in Berkeley County, will have brick backdrops behind the judges' benches.

The brickwork was in place when the building was a mill around a century ago.

"As much as possible, we tried to incorporate the original woolen mill into the building," Hjermstad said.

The comprehensive judicial center will house Magistrate Court, the prosecuting attorney's offices, Circuit Court, Family Court, Circuit Clerk offices and the Probation Department.

Currently, those offices are scattered throughout several buildings in downtown Martinsburg, including an old school with security and sanitation concerns.

Financed with bonds that will be repaid over the next 30 years, the judicial center is a good investment for taxpayers, Strauss said.

Constructing a new building would have cost double the $20 million price tag, he said.

Several features of the center have garnered a thumbs-up from county employees, including a separate entrance for employees, private bathrooms and a secure parking lot.

Other features of the judicial center that are not currently available in the county's scattered courthouses include a children's waiting area, multiple conference and meeting rooms, staff lounges and a separate grand jury room. Also, each courtroom will have a separate heating and cooling system that can be adjusted based on how many people are inside.

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