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County commissioners, judges review new courtroom floorplans

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

Renovating the Harrison County Courthouse to accommodate a new circuit court judge still is expected to cost nearly a half-million dollars.

Revised floor plans for the building were unveiled Tuesday during a Harrison County Commission meeting.

Despite major changes from the preliminary plans, the price tag should stay about the same, architect Bill Yoke, of WYK Associates, said.

"It should still be between $300,000 and $400,000," he said.

Commissioners met with Yoke, circuit court chief judge John Lewis Marks Jr., judge Thomas Bedell and Democratic candidate for judge of division III Jim Matish during the meeting.

The judges and Matish wanted to review plans for the new courtroom before the project is bid to make sure they will meet the needs of the court.

Commissioners are renovating the courthouse to make room for a third court division, which was created by the 1999 Legislature. To make room, the commission evicted the Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department.

Under the plans released Tuesday, the Voters Registration and Parks and Recreation offices now on the second floor will be relocated to the former health department space on the ground floor.

Then, commission offices now on the first floor will be moved to the vacated second floor space.

The new courtroom and judge's offices will be located where the commission offices now are.

The new plan will utilize as much of the existing materials as possible, Yoke said.

That pleased commissioner Beth Taylor, who pointed out the cherry wood paneling, bench and bar in the current commission courtroom.

But the new circuit courtroom will be a tight fit. Yoke reported that many of the specifications will not meet state Supreme Court of Appeals guidelines for courtrooms. The high court must approve plans for the new courtroom.

Other offices will have more or about the same space, Yoke said. The new Voter Registration office will have about 15 percent more space, he said. The commission's space will be within 5 percent of being the same.

Yoke invited comments from judges and commissioners. He said final plans and cost estimates should be finished by the commission's June 13 meeting.

After they are finalized, the commission will begin accepting bids on the project for 30 days.

Commission President Roger Diaz has said he expects renovations to begin July 1.

In other action, commissioners agreed to ask Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney Edmund Matko to ask the state Attorney General's office for a legal opinion about a new Clarksburg city ordinance.

Commissioners oppose the $75 fee which is imposed on non-city residents for the use of police and fire services.

City council members have said that the fee is needed to properly fund police and fire departments.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404.

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