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Jefferson County officials discuss redesign of old jail

March 03, 2006|by DON AINES

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA.

Office suites will replace cellblocks in the old Jefferson County Jail some day, but the Jefferson County Commission has yet to decide what will go into the aging lockup at the corner of George and Liberty streets.

Matthew Grove of Grove and Dall'Olio, the Martinsburg, W.Va., firm hired to redesign the 8,000-square-foot jail, said he will have diagrams of possible combinations of office suites that could go into the early 20th-century structure.

"We need to develop generic spaces there that can be flexible," County Commissioner Rusty Morgan said Thursday during a meeting between the commissioners and Grove. The county also needs to determine "packages of operations that need to stay together" before deciding what can be moved into the jail once it is renovated, he said.

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"You're going to need flexible space when you start moving people around," Grove said.

He said one feature the jail will definitely require is an elevator in order for the building to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"I want a public meeting room," said Commissioner Greg Corliss. There should also be an area where part of the old jail is preserved for historic purposes, which would include at least one of its 15 cells, he said.

One large space in the building could be used as both a public meeting area and a magistrate's courtroom, Morgan said.

Commissioner James Surkamp said the Department of Planning, Zoning and Engineering "is at a crisis point" in terms of needing more space. The commission members discussed what offices, or groups of offices, have to be kept in close proximity to each other to function efficiently.

Before any decisions are made about what goes in the jail, Commissioner Dale Manuel said something should be done to keep the building from deteriorating any further, including roof repairs. "I say move on that now," Manuel said.

Grove said a structural engineer will examine the building to see what work has to be done to preserve the jail until renovations begin.

In planning for what might go into the jail, the county also has to look ahead to expansion farther down the road, Grove said.

"The next building you build is going to be pretty sizable," Grove said of a 40,000-square-foot structure the county might eventually build behind the old jail. The county court system could one day be consolidated there, Morgan said.

Grove said he expects to have schematic designs ready in the next three months. Grove's firm last year told the county it would cost between $800,000 and $1 million to renovate the jail.

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