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New Morgan County Courthouse to express 'dignity of the courts'

March 08, 2007|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.VA. - The design of the new Morgan County Courthouse unveiled this week calls for a three-story, 40,000-square-foot building with a price tag of $11 million to replace the building destroyed by fire in August.

About 40 people attended a public meeting Tuesday night in the Berkeley Springs High School cafeteria to see the plans for the new Morgan County Courthouse.

The courthouse built in 1908 at the corner of Washington and Fairfax streets was destroyed by fire Aug. 8.

Tom Potts of Silling Associates Inc., the Charleston, W.Va., architectural firm hired by the Morgan County Commission to design the new courthouse building, said "the courthouse is the single-most important building in the county."

He said the new building "has dignity and speaks to Berkeley Springs" and "the building is looking to incorporate Berkeley Springs State Park," on the southwest corner of Washington Street.

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With a 28-foot-high entrance on Washington Street, the new courthouse has large columns that would provide a buffer to traffic, Potts said. It has a covered ramp at the entrance and two elevators that face Fairfax Street will be used to enter the courtrooms upstairs.

"We want a courthouse to express the dignity of the courts and be open to you, but (that) supplies proper security," Potts said.

The first floor will house the county administrative offices, file room, the county clerk, assessor and sheriff's tax department. "It has no X-ray or security machines, so business can be conducted," Potts said.

People must pass through security to take the elevators to the second and third floors. The courtrooms and court offices will be secured, he said.

The second floor will house the magistrate and family courtroom, probation office and offices for those courts.

The third floor will house the circuit courtroom, circuit clerk and file room, as well as the prosecutor's offices and the circuit court judge's office.

Potts suggested the outside bottom level could be made of sandstone and the top stories would be a lighter-colored brick.

The plans include a new cupola with a clock on the top of the building.

Eighteen feet of the courthouse parking lot will become part of the new building, he said.

Several of the people who attended the meeting addressed the need for an energy-efficient building, and Commissioner Brenda J. Hutchinson said the commissioners are looking into "energy-efficient technology that can be cost effective."

Potts said that the building he presented was the "wish list" building that could incorporate new technological energy-saving features, but it's all based on cost.

Commission President Glen R. Stotler said he liked the first-floor design with no security needed and that "two-thirds of the building is devoted to the courts."

Hutchinson said the public comments that were made to her after the meeting were "very positive."

Stotler said he hopes to hear something from the West Virginia Legislature within two weeks regarding the request for financial assistance. He said he asked Sen. Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas, for $7.5 million to help with the courthouse reconstruction. There is about $3.5 million in insurance, he said.

"It's a good plan," Stotler said. "The outside looks like you get the feel of the old courthouse."

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