Pocahontas Commission Considers Major Courtroom Renovation
Marlinton, West Virginia – The Pocahontas County Commission considered major renovations to the County Courtroom during its Tuesday afternoon meeting. Adam Krason and Jill Watkins with ZMM Architects, of Charleston and historic preservation consultant Michael Gioulis, of Sutton, presented plans for upgrading courtroom security, functionality and aesthetics.
Krason tells the commission historic accuracy is among the project goals.
“Our charge was to say how we would renovate the circuit courtroom, what improvements do we recommend, how do we improve security improve accessibility and how do we return it to its historical condition,” he said.
The plan would re-orient the courtroom 180 degrees, with the judge facing east instead of west, as it was originally situated. Commissioner Martin Saffer questions Krason’s proposal to reduce seating in the courtroom by 50 percent — from 96 to 48.
“You say that in this plan you reduce the number of public seats by half?” he said. “I would say, offhand, that that’s not a good idea, becaue oftentimes, that courtroom is the meeting room when the county commission entertains matters which are very well attended and you have standing-room-only in the courtroom.”
Krason responded that only seats attached to the courtroom floor would be removed and that portable chairs could be used for large gatherings.
State agencies, including the Division of Justice and Community Services and the Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority, provide grant money for courthouse improvements. The State Historic Preservation Office will have approval authority for any courthouse renovations. Commissioners voted 3-0 to authorize the experts to pursue funding and approval for the project.
The commission debated how to handle the contract for operation of a county animal shelter. Sandy Mallow, of Back Mountain Road, has the current contract, which expires on June 30. The commission budgeted $52,000 for animal shelter operations for fiscal year 2013.
Saffer says he thinks the commission can renew an existing contract, without soliciting bids, if the commission is satisfied with the current service.
“I don’t think we have to bid, if we’re satisfied with the present service and present situation, then we can simply renew the contract or not,” he said. “If we’re dissatisfied, then, obviously, we would want to bid.”
Commission president David Fleming asked commission clerk Sue Helton for her opinion. Helton says she thinks state law requires the commission to advertise for bids.
“I’m of the opinion that, if it’s more than $25,000, that we have to bid unless it’s a state contract,” she said.
Helton added that $25,000 is the limit for state agencies, but counties might have a lower limit of $15,000.
Commissioner Jamie Walker says the contract should be advertised for bids.
“I think, if we’re going to continue to hire it out, it needs to be bid,” he said. “But, I also think that there’s a lot of problems with it. There’s a lot of questions about it and a lot of different opinions how it needs to be run. My opinion, we need to look into getting our own shelter and hiring somebody to run it for us.”
Walker said bid specifications should be modified to provide time for a winning bidder to transport equipment from the current shelter, if necessary. The commission voted 2-1 to advertise for bids for animal shelter operation, without the additional clause. Walker cast the vote in opposition.
In other business, the commission approved a payment of $69,300 for upgrades to courthouse lighting. The commission received $160,000 in economic stimulus funds to complete the project.