Judges' chambers moved at annex

May 15, 2006|by TARA REILLY

Three judges' chambers on the third floor of the Washington County Courthouse Annex have been moved to another floor after renovations jarred loose asbestos.

"It's not a large quantity, but it's enough that it's a safety (concern)," Court Administrator Eunice Plank said.

Plank said the chambers of Circuit Judges John H. McDowell, Donald E. Beachley and W. Kennedy Boone III have been moved to the first-floor law library.

The third courtroom on the annex's third floor also is closed.

Plank said the judges have been in the law library for about two weeks, and she anticipated them to be there for another two to three weeks.

Rob Slocum, deputy chief engineer for Washington County, said the asbestos is in the process of being cleaned up. Once that is done, the third floor will reopen.


Some asbestos was found on the second floor of the annex. That floor was being renovated at the time, he said.

The annex has been undergoing renovations since late 2004. The County Commissioners hired Callas Contractors in July 2004 to do the work. The renovations include adding a courtroom for a fifth judge, asbestos abatement and increasing the number of holding cells.

An elevator to transport prisoners and an access ramp with a snow-melt system, which will be used in moving prisoners from vans to new basement holding cells, also are planned.

The elevator will be used to keep prisoners out of courthouse hallways, and away from employees and the public. The county decided to add the elevator to the project, mainly because of safety concerns after a deadly shooting in an Atlanta courthouse.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III was able to secure $250,000 in state funding toward the elevator.

At the time of the contract award, the project was estimated to cost $4.18 million.

Slocum said its estimated costs are now at $4.4 million, but that could increase as the project continues.

In 2004, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the project would be completed in fiscal year 2006, which ends June 30. Slocum said completion now is anticipated in January 2007.

Repairs have recently closed Court Place Alley, which runs between the annex and Hagerstown Trust. A written statement from the county says the alley will be closed through Nov. 3.

The closure will shut down the bank's drive-up window, but the walk-up window will remain open, said Mark Harrell, senior vice president for Hagerstown Trust.

He said he didn't anticipate the closure to cause any problems for the bank.

"It's actually going to be a nonevent for us," Harrell said.

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