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Commission updated on courthouse renovation work

KINGWOOD — The bids to reconstruct the second floor of the Preston County Courthouse will be out by April 15, according to Michael Mills, managing principal of the Mills Group LLC.

Mills said his company has worked with both the West Virginia Supreme Court and Circuit Judge Stephen Shaffer to come up with a plan for the second floor. The changes being made are to make room for an office and courtroom for a second circuit judge, who will take office January 2025.

“Cost is a big thing,” Mills told Preston County commissioners. “We need to be mindful of spending. This is an historic building. We can’t tear out windows, the historic core, or damage the outside.”

Mills said the courthouse will not be closed during the renovations. He said a phase plan will be used to move people around so offices can continue daily jobs. According to the blue prints, the re-configuration will impact only the second floor of the building. The offices most affected by the change will be the magistrate court.

Mills said moving walls will mean moving electrical wiring, too. He said the plan will include eight to 10 new walls. He said there would also be an ADA bathroom added, and a new courtroom with an ADA bathroom for the jury.

An ADA compliant bathroom is one that meets the requirements set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires public restrooms to be accessible to people with disabilities. Neither of the bathrooms will be open to the public.

“The magistrate offices will be relocated. The clerk’s offices will be in the old prosecuting attorney’s office.” Mills said. “There was a question about no break room. The jury room can be used for a break room when it’s not in use.”

Circuit Judge Stephen Shaffer said the state Legislature and the Supreme Court awarded a second judge because abuse and neglect, and felony cases have increased significantly since 2011. He said between 2011-13, there were 115 abuse and neglect cases and 242 felony cases. From 2019-21, Shaffer said, the numbers rose to 366 abuse and neglect cases and 430 felony cases, almost doubling the earlier numbers. Shaffer said these numbers do not include civil cases, juvenile cases, habias cases, guardianship cases and all other cases.

Shaffer said the changes to provide an office and courtroom for a second judge was mandated by the West Virginia Supreme Court.

In other business, a Preston County Day in Charleston was discussed. Commission President Don Smith said he asked several county residents if they believed the event was worth going to and they said no.

“It’s a neat thing to do but we would be better served to go down before or after the event to talk to our legislators when they can spend more time discussing our needs,” he said.

Commissioner Hunter Thomas said he believes the trip is beneficial and said next year he would like to work toward bringing more kids to the event.

Commissioner Samantha Stone said there are a lot of benefits, including networking and sharing ideas with out counties. She said she would like the commission to give the Chamber of Commerce $1,000 for Preston County Day.

Thomas suggested $500.

Smith said he has been attending the event for
10 years and said commissioners should do a survey and see what the public has to say about the event.

Later, a vote was taken with Thomas and Stone voting for the $500, and Smith voting against it.

County Administrator Nate Raybeck said repair work at the sheriff’s office is in the “punch list phase” and should be completed by Monday.

“Edison is in the building now and the power will be off all day Friday,” he said.