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Commissioners favor new courthouse

WINTON – The Hertford County Commissioners are moving toward a solutions to issues with the current courthouse.

Hertford County Commissioner Chairman Howard J. Hunter III said he and other members of the governing body knew that something has to be done with the Hertford County Courthouse.

“I know we need a new courthouse badly,” Hunter said. “Our courthouse is in bad shape and we need to do something. We not only need to help those who work there, but all of our citizens.”

Hunter said his personal belief is that building the new Hertford County Judicial Center is the best option.

“My opinion – and it’s only my opinion – is I do not see wasting $3 million to renovate the current building,” Hunter said. “It may cost more now to build the new facility, but it will be cheaper in the long run.”

Two members of the Hertford County Commission were among those who served on a committee to review options with the courthouse. That group found major problems, including Americans With Disabilities Act compliance, health concerns and lack of security options.

Two weeks ago, the group along with Pete Cayado of Ware Bonsall Architects presented three options to the Hertford County Commissioners. They included renovation, building a new judicial center with only the current occupants (called Option 2A) and building a center that included the District Attorney’s Office and Probation and Parole (Option 2B).

The two commissioners who served on the committee – Curtis A. Freeman and William F. Mitchell Jr. – each said they were pleased with the work of the group and happy with the outcome.

“I am pleased with the process,” Freeman said. “We had people outside of the county office building involved and I felt that was extremely important. We all sat down together and looked at our alternatives and where we are now.

“We wanted the public to be involved from the beginning,” he added. “I am very happy with the input we have received.”

Both commissioners who served on the committee agreed with the group’s recommendation of choosing Option 2B.

“I think it’s just a good business decision,” Mitchell said. “I think it would be a bad idea to spend $3 million on renovation and then still not have anywhere near the square footage you need. The current space just wouldn’t be adequate.

“In Option 2B, it would be putting everyone in the same facility and that makes more sense,” Mitchell said.

Freeman agreed.

“I am personally for Option 2B where everyone is under the same roof,” he said. “Renovation, for me, is out of the question. If we do that, we’ll have to relocate people and put them in a building that will cost $1 million and when we are finished someone will come take their building back. That’s a million dollars that’s just gone.”

Freeman said he believed it was important to make sure the building was done right from the start.

“I want it done correctly,” Freeman said. “I wanted us to look down the road for future needs. If we renovate, what we have is what we have. There wouldn’t be room for growth.”

Freeman said the county currently spends more than $30,000 per year for rent on the District Attorney’s Office and he felt that money could go toward payment on the new judicial center.

Mitchell said construction of a new facility would also be good for the local economy.

“If we build a new judicial center, it would bring local jobs,” Mitchell said. “Any way we can help people locally, that is what I would be inclined to do.”

The next process begins immediately, Freeman said.

“At this point, we as a committee and we as commissioners will begin studying how to finance it without making it a burden to the citizens,” he said. “It is something that has to be done.”