Official says courthouse rebuilding a three-year plan

November 06, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - A Morgan County official said rebuilding the county courthouse that was destroyed in an August fire could be a three-year process.

Morgan County administrator Bill Clark said last week that it will take one year for courthouse planning and hopefully the building will be completed in two years. He's looking at a "three-year plan," he said.

Designing the new Morgan County Courthouse is the first step toward replacing the one lost by fire, and Silling Associates Inc., a Charleston, W.Va., architectural firm, was chosen by the Morgan County Commission recently to begin that task, he said.

A contract is being negotiated, Clark said.

The Aug. 8 fire destroyed the courthouse and connected buildings, and county offices are in temporary housing (trailers) in the courthouse parking lot.


Clark said being together in the temporary housing trailers has its benefits.

The Morgan County Assessor and the Sheriff's Tax Department are in the same place, and that is where the offices should be in the new courthouse, he said.

Also, since the Morgan County Sheriff's Department's Law Enforcement Division is being housed in the Morgan County Rescue Service building on U.S. 522, there is less congestion for courthouse parking, said Clark, and the sheriff and deputies most likely will remain there.

"The courthouse needs to be assessed, and it will take six to 10 months," he said. "We have to come up with a concept of what our needs are what offices we had and what we need," he said.

Clark said after the design is determined and the cost to rebuild is determined, the commission will talk with the state for additional assistance.

They already are getting information on grants, he said.

Joe Martin, deputy chief of staff for West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, said the Morgan County Commission has spoken with Manchin and asked for help.

He said the county needs to provide an assessment of what the county can do before the state appropriates funding.

Clark said he estimates the building could cost $6 million to $8 million, depending on what is designed.

If the building design is two stories, that would be 24,000 square feet. He said he has been told the cost could be $250 per square foot.

"The commission wants the courthouse complex to be something the community will be proud of, and that will be costly," he said.

"For me, I want a very functional operation. All the offices will be together, except law enforcement," he said.

The courthouse complex was insured for $4 million, but $1 million of that has been spent for the temporary modular housing setup and expenditures, Clark said, including a new concrete block building to replace the damaged vaults in the courthouse that house the county clerk and circuit court records.

He said Morgan County will "fit right in" with 24 other West Virginia counties regarding fire insurance coverage.

He said the commission had increased the insurance, and it was reviewed every year.

"There are a number of West Virginia courthouses that are underinsured," Martin said.

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