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Courthouse renovations to cost $256,000

Proposed renovation plans for the downtown courthouse include updated chambers for the county commission, offices for the county mayor and county attorney, a security system, new doors and a price tag of $256,000.
Washington County Purchasing Agent Willie Shrewsbury presented a project estimate with a cost breakdown per room during the Oct. 3 meeting of the County-Owned Property Committee.
The courtroom on the second floor of the building, which serves as the meeting site for the Washington County Commission, will undergo a total transformation under the design with new seating for all attendees and participants.
Commissioners will sit in high-back executive chairs in an arrangement that will have 12 commissioners fanning out on either side of the commission chairman at the head of the room, with all board members facing the audience.
The parliamentarian, county clerk and county attorney will sit together at a boat-shaped table in front of the commissioners.
To make enough space for the officials’ seating, the first row of audience chairs has to be removed, according to Shrewsbury.
The remainder of audience seats will be replaced with wooden pews that will make up for lost space in the front row with the elimination of arm rests.
In an effort to give the room a historical ambience, a chandelier will be hung from the cathedral section of the ceiling, and some of the lighting fixtures will be replaced with sconces.
The legal services staff will take the two offices behind the courtroom that formerly served judges. The mayor and his executive assistant will divide the space behind the jury box, which will be removed and walled off.
The inset on the opposite side of the courtroom also will be walled off and included as part of the corridor. The former jury room along that hall will be divided into a shared conference room and smaller break room.
The third floor will be repainted and recarpeted in preparations for the Election Office’s move from the second floor, which will soon be occupied by the county’s bookkeeping and purchasing departments.
Shrewsbury said Professional Business Interiors, of Asheville, N.C., has the state contract for furnishings, but the county will receive a discount. Local architect Fred Ward designed the plan, and the construction work will be bid.
The courthouse doors facing Main Street will be replaced, and the side door will become handicapped-accessible.
Installation of a security system similar to the one in the George P. Jaynes Justice Center is another proposed addition to the courthouse.
The need for such a system to provide additional safety for employees who must work after hours has been discussed in more than one meeting.
When the system is activated, stairwells can only be accessed with a key card swipe. Access to the elevator will never be interrupted.
Commissioner Alpha Bridger made a motion, seconded by Commissioner George “Skip” Oldham and approved unanimously, to recommend the proposed plan for renovations to the Budget Committee.