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Judicial Center price tag nearing $20 million

July 07, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The construction cost of Berkeley County's new judicial center inched closer to $20 million Thursday after the county's three commissioners approved three proposals, including three "monument" signs for the complex.

The signage for three locations around the former Blue Ridge Outlets' Berkeley Building in downtown Martinsburg, along with a floor-leveling alteration for 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes' suite and an exit gate near the building's main entrance off South Street, are expected to cost a little more than $40,000.

The additional expenses push the total construction cost to more than $19,250,000, Berkeley County Administrator Deborah Hammond said.

That tally does not include more than $329,000 in furniture purchases approved for the building Thursday, but county commissioners reiterated their belief that the renovation project to be completed in October still will prove to be less inexpensive than constructing a new facility from the ground up.

"This building will be in use for the next century," said Commissioner Howard L. Strauss, while reviewing two options for precast, concrete signage, both costing more than $35,000. The commission opted for the more expensive option, which could cost even more if the foundation work for the signage is not impeded by the area's notorious limestone-littered geological character.

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After approving a more horizontal-shaped sign featuring recessed lettering and the county's seal, Commissioner Ronald K. Collins requested estimates that would support the merit of county leaders' decision in 2001 to purchase the complex for $3.8 million.

"I just want to be able to throw some figures out," Collins said.

Strauss said he already had received one figure that indicated new construction in 2000 would have cost $300 per square foot, well above the ongoing project's price tag.

Separate from the added construction costs provided Thursday was a second furniture purchase that topped $329,000 for the 126,000-square-foot building.

Strauss said Thursday that Judge Gray Silver III elected to take his own furniture to the new office, and Wilkes, who toured the new center under construction with a group of other county officials Thursday, is bringing his desk.

Strauss clearly was unhappy with Silver's decision, lamenting what would happen in the future when the judge leaves his post.

"The things he wants are not necessarily in keeping with the rest of judges' suites," Strauss said.

The timing of the furniture purchase from Franklin Interiors, based in Pittsburgh, was expected to net the county a savings of about $82,000, officials said. Strauss also indicated certain departments will be expected to reimburse the county for furnishings as part of the budget process.

Earlier this month, the West Virginia Division of Criminal Justice Services awarded the county a $7,660 grant for two security devices at the main entrance, Strauss said.

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