Perhaps we have not supported the Harrison County Commission's strong landlord position in evicting the Clarksburg-Harrison Health Department from its long-time quarters on the ground floor of the courthouse. Still, we must applaud the commissioners for agreeing to sacrifice their courtroom and office space for location of a third judge.
The commissioners last week adopted a proposal by WYK Associates, Inc., a local architectural firm, to relocate the panel's offices from the second level of the courthouse -- it is known as the "first" floor -- to the third level, or "second" floor. That is where the Voters Registration and other offices have long been located.
Commissioner Tom Keeley told an Exponent and Telegram reporter last week that although there is less space on the third level to accommodate commission offices, it is the most cost effective. And, county officials maintain, the shuffling of the offices has become necessary because the state Legislature in 1999 created a third division of the circuit court for Harrison County, with the new judge to take office in January 2001.
As the health department has been renting its ground-floor space from the commission, it became "odd man out" with the 1999 mandate and was told some time ago it would have to relocate to another building. Currently, the health department finds itself in the process of relocating to the less accommodating second floor of the Policano Professional Building.
Originally, plans were for Voters Registration, Parks and Recreation and other offices to relocate to where the health department has been situated, with a new courtroom and offices for the new judge to be built on the third level, or second floor.
However, under the new plan as described by Keeley, the construction of a third courtroom is no longer necessary, and the new judge will be able to use the courtroom now used by the county commission. Keeley says the plan will save money, an idea with which we certainly cannot argue.
The pricetag of the original plan would have been a bout $403,125, to cover renovations on both floors. The commissioners have authorized WYK to proceed with a Request for Proposals in order to begin the bidding process for the renovations.
Meanwhile, we hope that the county commission will continue to be understanding with regard to the health department, even though it missed an April 7 deadline to be out of the courthouse. That department has shown it is making an effort to move and should be given as much time as needed to complete the transition.