Published 5:01 pm Friday, September 8, 2023
JACKSON –Several county officials got a chance to see first-hand how construction is progressing on the new Northampton Courthouse during a Thursday morning tour of the two-story structure.
Work has been ongoing since last year on the 27,182 square foot facility, one for which the county received a $14 million appropriation from the state to build. It is located on a 10-acre parcel of land located just east of the State Employees Credit Union in Jackson.
The tour group – led by John Hamm and Timothy Oakley of Oakley Collier Architects joined by Al Chesson of A.R. Chesson & Son, the project’s general contractor – included Charles R. Tyner, Sr., Chairman to the Northampton County Board of Commissioners; Vice Chair Geneva Faulkner, County Manager Julian Phillips, Itia Robertson, Assistant County Manager/Clerk to the Board, and County Finance Officer Kenyia Walker.
The group first entered the front vestibule where the facility’s security checkpoint / screening area will be located. To the right of that area is a public counter as well as the public elevator and stairs to the second floor courtrooms.
Approximately one third of the space on the ground floor, to the right side of the main entrance, will be occupied by the Clerk of Court, to include a large room for court records.
To the left of the main entrance is office space for the District Attorney.
Behind that office is a large multi-purpose room, available for public use. Tyner hinted that space, with a seating capacity of 108, may become the meeting room for the county commissioners.
Other public spaces on the ground floor include Probation and Parole and Juvenile Services.
A staff breakroom is located at the back left of the ground floor. The back center contains a staff elevator and staff stairwell.
There is a secured sallyport at rear of the ground floor where vehicles carrying prisoners, who are scheduled for court appearances, can enter the building. Those prisoners and jail staff/deputies will have a dedicated elevator to take them to the second floor courtrooms.
“All of the doors in this area are electronically secured, meaning if a prisoner gets away they cannot access the main part of the courthouse,” said Hamm.
Hamm added that all other staff entrances and interior doors are accessible only with a security card.
Space on the second floor is dominated by a Superior Courtroom and a District Courtroom, both of equal size (160 seating capacity). There is a secured area, complete with cells, between the two courtrooms where prisoners will be kept until the time of their appearance before the judge. That area is also controlled by electronically secured doors, to include two small rooms where attorneys can meet with their clients.
There are judge’s chambers and jury rooms for each courtroom, as well as a law library.
At the back right corner of the second floor is space dedicated for the Resident Judge and the Court Reporter.
The construction phase is on schedule, with completion in December of this year or early January 2024, according to Timothy Oakley. Occupancy of the new courthouse will take place soon thereafter, depending upon the arrival and placement of all furniture.
“It still makes me happy that we were able to build this courthouse without local money,” said Tyner. “This place will be a plus for Northampton County and our citizens. All the new technology is in place here with our new courthouse.
“We were long overdue for a new courthouse,” Tyner added. “Our first one (built in 1858) has served its purpose. We’re going to keep it open, but we can’t do much with it as far as major remodeling because the historical folks [National Register of Historic Places] won’t let us. Plus there’s not much parking space at the old courthouse.”
In addition to the new courthouse, the county has received a $5 million federal grant to construct an administrative office building on the same property. That building will house the County Manager and staff, Human Resources, Finance Office, Register of Deeds, Tax Department, and GIS/Land Records.
“We’re just waiting for the final paperwork from the USDA since it’s their grant money we’re getting for that project,” Tyner said on Thursday regarding the timetable to start construction on the new annex building.
A.R. Chesson & Son has been awarded the construction contract.