Harrison County Commission receives report on courthouse space efficiency

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A $20 million project created through a study of how to more effectively utilize the space at the Harrison County Courthouse and jail annex would ultimately organize similar agencies together.

The study conducted by Charleston-based Silling Associates Architects recommends the jail annex be converted to an area that would house all of the county’s judicial function and allow for more consolidation of administrative agencies in the main building.

One of the main reasons for the proposed judicial annex is public safety, in regard to how detainees are transported throughout the courthouse currently.

“We bring them from a holding area, bring them up and have to walk them through the general public to actually get them in the courtrooms,” County Commission President Ron Watson said.

Outside of public safety, the proposals presents a chance to consolidate and streamline agencies, bringing a needed update to the building.

“The courts are much more sophisticated, the building type has matured,” Tom Potts, President of Silling Associates said. “It’s a handful, or maybe more than a handful of little elements that come together and make this [current] building maybe less in performance for a court facility than it should.”

Since the courthouse was originally constructed in the 1930s, Potts said the court system has expanded by becoming more focused and as it is now and the limitations of the building makes things less efficient.

“You have the family court, you have the circuit court, you have all of these solutions that are prepared with social services that they all come together and need to be within the court facility and this building isn’t planned for that.”

The proposal has the approval of the judges who would be affected by the change, which was important to the commission.

Now, the potential challenge is getting the approval of the public on a project with an estimated $20 million dollar price tag.

Watson said that while he believes in the project and will work to promote it to citizens, he would personally like the voters to have the ultimate decision.

“We plead the case as to why the need is there, justify that and then allow the public to vote it up or vote it down.”

Watson said a referendum would also give a chance for those potentially against the project to have their say.

The commission plans to look for other options before making a final decision, but hope that some action can be taken.

“The worst case scenario is we do nothing,” Watson said.