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Judges, officials asked to clean their offices

Berkeley County modifies janitorial contract to save money

Berkeley County modifies janitorial contract to save money

January 16, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. ? The state's trial and family court judges and other elected officials working in Berkeley County government-owned buildings have been asked to clean their private bathrooms and vacuum their offices as a means to help the county save money, according to a memo they received this week.

In a two-page memo obtained by The Herald-Mail, county facilities director Jay Russell told elected officials and department heads that the county's janitorial contract was modified "due to downturns in revenues."

"There will be no cleaning and vacuuming (of) private county offices," Russell said in the memo. "Also private bathrooms and kitchenettes will not be cleaned."

Russell also said that vacuum cleaners provided and small caddies with spray cleaners for "light dusting" would have to be shared.

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Cleaning supplies will be provided for officials with private bathrooms, Russell said in the memo.

Russell's memo follows the Berkeley County Commission's decision in December 2007 to rework its contract with LeScrub Janitorial services of Martinsburg to save nearly $60,000. The decision was prompted by dips in permit fees collected from housing construction activities and real estate transfer taxes. The reworked cleaning contract amounted to $146,559, down from $206,000.

"It just seems a little unprofessional to me," 24th Circuit Family Court judge Sally Jackson said of the cleaning arrangements on Wednesday in between hearings. "I never heard of such a thing."

Jackson said she found the request "amusing" but was less than thrilled by the arrangement for the county's new judicial center, which she said was probably one of the most beautiful court buildings in the state.

"I can't really believe they're serious about it," said Jackson, whose office is on the center's second floor with Family Court judge William Wertman.

After objecting to the prospect of "rotating latrine duty" among staff, Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely said Wednesday that she was assured that two bathrooms used by her staff would be cleaned in the first-floor office suite.

Games-Neely said she was willing to clean the private bathroom attached to her office, but noted she didn't ask for it in the new building.

"I'm not above scrubbing toilets," Games-Neely said.

The county's top prosecutor said she had cleaned her bathroom at her former office off Spring and East King streets and routinely cleans the facilities at her family's home.

"It's my space, it's my suite, it's my junk," said Games-Neely, who still thought it was "sad" that the county had to make the cleaning cutbacks.

Unaware of any concessions on employee bathroom cleaning, Berkeley County Magistrate Court clerk Ruby Kay Hawkins and Berkeley County circuit court clerk Virginia M. Sine said Wednesday they would not ask their staff to clean them.

"I cannot ask my girls, my staff, to clean toilets," said Sine, who like Games-Neely also said she had a private bathroom she didn't request. Like Games-Neely, Sine said she also cleaned the bathroom at her former office off West King Street, but noted it was also used by her staff as well.

County Commissioner William L. "Bill" Stubblefield said he didn't believe the county was asking anyone to clean bathrooms, only vacuuming and office cleaning. He deferred to other county officials who he said were more familiar with the arrangement.

As part of the state court system, Hawkins confirmed that the county is paid $75,000 annually for the magistrate court's use of the judicial center's third-floor space, but wasn't familiar with the exact requirements of the rental/lease agreement.

"I think (the cleaning issue) will be solved very quickly," Hawkins said.

Exactly how much money the county receives from the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia for the family, circuit or circuit probation office space in the judicial center was not immediately clear.

According to a June 22, 2000, memo from the high court, money deposited in a certain magistrate court fund is to be used "by the (respective) county in accordance with rules established by the Supreme Court of Appeals to defray the expenses of providing services to magistrate courts."

In the 2007 calendar year, the Berkeley County Magistrate Court clerk's office collected more than $2 million, including fines and other fee assessments, according to figures tracked by Hawkins. The court's staff handled nearly 10,000 misdemeanor (7,322) and felony (1,600) files, 6,426 civil cases and 7,082 tickets that listed 9,197 charges on them, according to Hawkins.

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