Judicial center hailed as largest in West Virginia

October 06, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - At least four justices on the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito are expected to take part in today's grand opening celebration of the Berkeley County Judicial Center, officials have announced.

Area residents are welcome to attend the outdoor celebration, which will begin at 2 p.m., Berkeley County Commission President Howard L. Strauss said Thursday.

Strauss is expected to be joined by Commissioners Ronald K. Collins, Steven C. Teufel and three former commissioners at the program.

Billed as the largest judicial center in West Virginia, the 125,000-square-foot center was substantially completed Sept. 30, but court officials are not expected to move in until November and December because necessary security systems have not been installed, Strauss said.


"I'll be the first to say it's not perfect," Strauss said of the approximately $20 million project, now six years in the making. "However, it will be a substantial improvement of the conditions of all the offices throughout the court system. And that was our goal."

Strauss encouraged the public to dress appropriately for the outdoor program. Parking at the former plaza for the CVS pharmacy and old Martin's grocery store will be most easily reached by turning onto South Raleigh Street, Strauss said.

County leaders invited 1,000 people and about 300 responded to the invitations, Strauss said.

It was not clear whether Gov. Joe Manchin would attend, but he was invited, the commissioner said.

Most county offices are expected to be closed by 1 p.m. to allow employees to attend the celebration, Strauss said. The commission voted Thursday to allow the county's other elected officers to decide whether to close early.

The red, white and blue bunting draped across the new Berkeley County Judicial Center, floral arrangements, invitations and refreshments, and other items for the celebration all were privately paid for, Strauss said.

He estimated the value of the donations for the celebration to be more than $5,000. The donors will be recognized on the program.

State Supreme Court justices Larry V. Starcher, Elliott E. "Spike" Maynard, Joseph P. Albright and Brent Benjamin will participate in the ceremony, the court announced this week.

Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis said in a news release Thursday that other commitments prevented her from attending the event.

The Judicial Center is in one of three buildings that formerly housed the Blue Ridge Outlets shopping center. The county purchased the buildings in January 2002. The Dunn Building has been renovated for county offices, including the county commission and is expected to eventually be home for the county clerk.

The Crawford Building, the last to be renovated, is planned to provide additional judicial center space, including a vault and large ceremonial courtroom.

The Berkeley Building will house offices and courtrooms for three of the four judges in the 23rd judicial circuit: Judges Christopher C. Wilkes, Gray Silver III and David H. Sanders. Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. presides in Jefferson County. It also will house offices and two courtrooms for two family court judges, offices for five magistrates, three magistrate courtrooms and several magistrate court hearing rooms. The circuit clerk's office, magistrate clerk's office, Berkeley County prosecuting attorney's office and probation offices also are moving into the facility.

If you go

What: Ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony for the new Berkeley County Judicial Center

When: 2 p.m. today

Where: South Raleigh and South streets, Martinsburg, W.Va.

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