No longer are the plans for the new judicial center and the courthouse a dream. The judicial center is being built and now folks who travel on West Main Street will see the early stages of a structure forming for the new courthouse. The local county judge-executive said both projects are on schedule.
“Of course, if you drive by, the walls to the courthouse are going up,” said Jim Nickell. “The roof and brick should be on the courthouse in two to three weeks.”
Nickell said the judicial center project is moving along.
“The judicial center is on track. All of the sheetrock and the drywall is hung and they are continuing to work on that. In the next two to three weeks, they should be starting to work on the sidewalks on both sides and the road.”
Nickell said the completion of both projects is tentatively planned for the spring.
“The construction manager told me that both projects are on schedule and they both should be occupied by March,” he said. “Our fingers are crossed that will happen.”
The judicial center is 39,000-square-feet with two floors. The following entities will be in the judicial center: district court, circuit court, judges, family court, Circuit Clerk, administrative office personnel. The courthouse is 19,000-square-feet. The courthouse will house the business end of the county that would be the county clerk, sheriff, county attorney, treasurer, judge, property valuation administration, Nickell said.
“The judicial center budget was around $13 million from the state,” he said. “I think it will be well under that because of the bids coming in at a good price. The state pays for that so there is no local dollars involved there.”
The courthouse cost was around $3.7 million. The county’s actual dollars that will go into the project will be about $2 million. When the administrative and judicial offices are moved out of the current courthouse, the fiscal court will receive $1.7 million from the university. Those funds will go towards paying off half of the courthouse, Nickell said.
“When we move out of the jail we will receive another $1 million,” he said. “We do not know where the jail is going to go yet. We are talking with other counties about the possibility of putting in a multi-county jail. So that will change where the jail’s location will be. More than likely, it will be away from the judicial center if it is a multi-county jail where it will serve two or three counties.”
Nickell said the cost of incarceration of prisoners is rising because of drugs.
“It’s not just in this county but it’s everywhere,” he said. “The smaller counties would be hard-pressed to build a new jail on their own.”
He said Rowan County holds some of Morgan, Elliott, and Bath inmates.
“If we enter into an agreement where we have a multi-county jail which will probably be located in this county,“ he said. “It will be run in this county but we would have them locked into holding their prisoners which would make the bond payment on the new jail. So this county will not responsible for it. I think that is the route we are looking at. We are going to have to wait until the elections are over and see who is going to be in office and who is not. I think this is the direction we may go.”
Nickell said there are legal issues that will have to be looked into first before making the decision to construct a multi-county jail.
“We do not have a location but it would be out somewhere by itself,” he said. “It will be something similar to the Big Sandy Regional Jail but this will be a multi-county jail and not a regional type jail.”
He said he will have to wait until after January to talk to judges in other counties about making any plans for a multi-county jail agreement.
“We have this jail we are in for another five years,” he said. “We can occupy it and use it. So we have time to look at that.”
Nickell said the current courthouse building has served its purpose.
“We are all looking forward to moving into the new courthouse,” he said. “I know the people in the county are looking forward to it. I think we have a courthouse the people can be proud of.”