Court officials favor new facility

Published 5:42 pm Sunday, November 1, 2009

WINTON – A new Hertford County Judicial Center could be advantageous to the public as well as those who work in the court system, according to a pair of court officials.

Hertford County Register of Deeds Kathleen Wright and Judicial District 6B Attorney Valerie Asbell each said their office could be improved if the Hertford County Commissioners follow the recommendation of a board-appointed steering committee to review the current Hertford County Courthouse.

The steering committee presented their findings to the board last week, offering an option to remodel the facility as well as two alternatives to build a new building across the street from the current courthouse on a county-owned lot currently used for parking.

Wright, who has been working in the Hertford County Courthouse for more than 20 years, said she was glad to be a part of the committee and appreciated the opportunity to give input from the beginning of the project.

She also said the close review provided to the committee showed the aging courthouse to be in worse shape than even she knew.

“I have been here for 21 years,” Wright said. “I’ve seen it first-hand for a long time, but I truly didn’t know that the building was in as bad a shape as it is.

“I knew the ramps were not in compliance with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards, but I didn’t know other offices were in such bad shape,” she added.

The Register of Deeds said she has to put a trashcan under a light fixture when it rains to catch the water that drips from the ceiling.

Wright said she was “totally supportive” of the committee’s recommendation to choose option 2B, which would build a new courthouse with room for expansion of the Register of Deeds Office and Clerk of Court as well as adding offices for Probation and Parole and the District Attorney.

“I totally believe option 2B would serve as a better option,” Wright said. “I think the rent the county is paying for the DA’s office would help with paying for the new building and it would be an asset to have them here.”

Wright said an option she hoped would not be considered is renovation of the current building. That option would include having the current occupants move out for more than a year while the structure was renovated. Moving once into a new facility would be tough, Wright said, but worth it. Moving twice would be a nightmare.

“It would be devastating,” she said. “It would be terrible. We could issue birth certificates, death certificates and things of that nature. For real estate, however, I don’t know how it would be possible to move all those books into a temporary setting and then move them again.

“I don’t look forward to moving the real estate books when it’s time to go into a new facility, but that would be worth it,” she added. “I can’t imagine moving them twice.”

For her part, Asbell said she was pleased to be asked to serve on the committee and provide input as Hertford County looked at the options to renovate or build a new facility.

“There were a wide variety of people on that committee, not just court officials,” Asbell said. “The input from other members of the community as well as the court officials helped make the decisions about what was needed and what was not needed in a new structure.”

As for moving her office to the courthouse if the Hertford County Commissioners choose to build a new facility and add the DA, Asbell said she would welcome the move.

“Economically, it would be more feasible for the county,” she said. “I would certainly like to have a building that was built for the needs of the Register of Deeds, Clerk of Superior Court and the DA’s office.

The Hertford County Commissioners are expected to review the options during their meeting at 9 a.m. Monday morning.