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Judicial center has grand opening

October 07, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The snip of a large red ribbon and release of red, white and blue balloons into the overcast sky in Martinsburg on Friday capped a 90-minute Berkeley County Judicial Center grand opening program complete with humor, reflection and political speak.

"Blessed are the brief, for they shall be invited back," West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Justice Larry V. Starcher said in his remarks to an umbrella-toting crowd outside the new center at 380 W. South St.

Starcher was joined by the high court's other four justices, the state's magistrates and circuit judges who preside in Berkeley County and U.S. District Judge W. Craig Broadwater for the celebration.

"In embracing the future, you've honored the past," Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin said of the Berkeley County Commission's decision about six years ago to renovate the historic woolen mill complex off South, Raleigh and Stephen streets and Maple Avenue for consolidated government and court operations.

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The cluster of red brick industrial buildings first was rescued from blight after the city's flourishing textile industry faded in the 1950s through the successful Blue Ridge Outlet Center.

"We have preserved a great piece of history in this great county of Berkeley," County Commissioner Ronald K. Collins said, recalling that his two daughters both had worked at the Blue Ridge Outlets complex.

Describing the building's new use as a "monument to justice," U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito said in brief remarks that she once had shopped there.

Though open to the public for the celebration, court officials are not expected to begin occupying the 125,000-square-foot building until November.

Framed reproductions of old photographs depicting the building's prior use, along with profiles of former judges and magistrates, were mounted on walls of at least two floors in time for the celebration.

In prepared remarks for the program, Matthew T. Hjermstad, associate principal of DMJM Design, the project architect, said the commission's decision to reuse the woolen mill building resulted in a savings "in the order of $12 million."

Staged beneath the center's imposing, four-column entrance, Commission President Howard L. Strauss began the ceremony by the tapping of a gavel. Strauss was credited many times for his leadership in making the project a reality, and both Collins and Commissioner Steven C. Teufel publicly thanked him.

To start the ceremony, the Veterans Combined Honor Guard of Martinsburg solemnly performed the flag-raising ceremony, and Mary C. Kackley, director of Berkeley County Central Dispatch, invited those gathered to join her in singing the national anthem. Most did.

Former county Commissioner D. Wayne Dunham gave the invocation, and another former commissioner, Robert L. Burkhart, led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

"It's a great day for Berkeley County," said former Commissioner James C. Smith, who was slated to give the benediction, but for whatever reason, organizers forgot, Strauss said afterward.

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