By Beth Lawrence

 

A packed audience and repeat performances are good things unless the venue is a courtroom and those packed seats hamper the ability to get work done.

That’s the problem Jackson County is currently experiencing. The issue has led county commissioners to explore the idea of adding additional space to accommodate trials.

“The county has been somewhat discussing courtroom renovations for many years, starting prior to my arrival,” county Manager Don Adams said. “In 2018 the county prioritized three projects to be completed. They are: 1. Health Department 2. Animal Rescue Center 3. Justice Center Renovations.”

In 2018 the county discussed setting aside $1.5 million as a working amount to begin the process.

The county has two courtrooms. To meet overflow needs, other rooms like the jury assembly room, law library and commissioners meeting room are used on an as-needed basis.

The problem lies in the fact that those rooms are not designed for court purposes.

The county plans to engage an architect in late summer or early fall to begin assessing what needs to be done.

Adams does not know if that will mean building new courtrooms or expanding current ones.

“The architect will help develop the overall plan,” he said. “Once an architect is selected then a scope of work for the architect will need to be determined. The need for additional court space is driving this discussion. So at a minimum the scope of work will entail the architect helping us determine the best method to add courtroom space.”

The architects should identify alternate plans to hold court and a cost estimate for the project.

The plan will be presented to the Board of Commissioners for review.

Adams is hopeful that the first step in the process can be completed in fiscal year 2020-21.