Jefferson Co. aims to ease judicial space crunch

June 09, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Saying it could cost $10 million, Jefferson County Commission members discussed Thursday building a 40,000-square-foot annex to the Jefferson County Courthouse to create much-needed space for growing court operations and cramped government office buildings.

Commission members agreed to hire an architect to help them draw up plans for the annex. Commission President Greg Corliss said he would like to have the facility built by 2009.

Also, the commission for the first time decided how they will use the former Jefferson County Jail, which was saved from the wrecking ball after a group of local residents and some commission members fought to save the building.

The commission has not started to renovate the former jail so it could be used for county offices, but commission members have been reviewing plans from an architect on how the building, behind the courthouse, can be used for county offices.


Corliss said Thursday that the renovation of the jail could cost about $2 million.

Commission members decided Thursday to move the Jefferson County Clerk's office into the first floor of the old jail and put the family law court on the second floor of the building after it is renovated.

The family law court is across the street in a building that houses Jefferson County Magistrate Court and other offices. Moving the family law court into the former jail will free up space for an additional circuit judge position which is expected to come to Jefferson County and create more magistrate court space, Corliss said.

Corliss said the annex to Jefferson County Courthouse at the corner of George and Washington streets would be at least three stories tall.

The cost of building the annex, renovating the jail and finishing other building projects the commission has agreed to start will cost the county nearly $19 million, Corliss said. The commission has about $16 million for the work, county officials said.

Commission member Rusty Morgan said he did not want to get the additional money needed for the building project from sources like taxes. Instead, the money could come from bonds, Morgan said.

The commission has discussed building a courthouse annex for years but the project is often competing with other interests, such as expanding county park facilities or improvements to other county offices, he said.

Morgan said it is time for the county to seriously begin working on new county office space to meet the future needs of the growing county.

Corliss said the county could get another circuit judge by 2009 and the annex is also needed to create more administrative office space downtown.

The commission on Thursday talked about ways to retrofit existing government buildings downtown to create more space but Morgan said he wanted to see something more substantial done to create space.

"I don't think we can put this building program off much longer. We have to find resources," said Morgan. "We need to solve this problem through new construction."

The commission has started lining up additional facilities for government offices.

The commission recently purchased a 25,000-square-foot building in the Bardane Industrial Park for $1.2 million and a 10,000-square-foot building next door for $1.3 million to house the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department and the county's 911 center.

Not only did the agencies need new facilities, but moving them into the buildings will free up space, county officials said.

Corliss said it will cost about $6.7 million to make those two buildings suitable for the sheriff's department and the 911 center.

The sheriff's department is in the Mason Building on Washington Street and the commission on Thursday discussed moving the county's Department of Planning Zoning and Engineering into the Mason Building after the sheriff's department moves out of the building.

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