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District Attorney’s office in need of more space at Justice Center, task force meets to make changes

The inhabitants of the George P. Jaynes Justice Center in Jonesborough are adjusting to working in their new digs.
But just like many new homeowners, after a little more than a year of calling the Justice Center their home, some office holders are now realizing how things could have been done differently to better utilize the space.
“This building is in full compliance with every state requirement at the time of construction,” said Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge. “Could it have been planned differently? Absolutely. What I hope we can do is tweak things now that we’re all here and see where our needs are.”
On Friday, members of the newly formed Justice Center Task Force took to working on just that. Their first order of business was to find more room for District Attorney Tony’s Clark’s office.
Currently 17 people are working in an office space suited to hold no more than 11 employees, Clark said.
“It’s pathetic. (Clark is) crowded in there like that,” said County Commissioner Sam Phillips, “And there’s offices that aren’t even being used here.”
The task force, whose members include Clark, Phillips, Judge Thomas Seeley, Clerk and Master Brenda Sneyd, County Court Clerk Karen Guinn and County Attorney John Rambo, now is considering ways to utilize unused space in the Sessions and Criminal court judges areas to create additional room for the DA’s office.
Currently, an office intended for a third Sessions Court judge is not being used because the county only has two such judges. Task force members said they do not believe the county will get a third Sessions Court judge at least for the next few years.
“That office is about half the space of what I have my entire office,” Clark said. “It’s huge.”
Just down the hall a ways, Criminal Court Judge Lynn Brown does not use his office, other than to hang his judge’s robe, according task force members, offering even more potential space for the DA’s office.
“I could put at least three or four people back there,” Clark said. “I’d have four more offices and a conference room. Right now, we don’t have anywhere to meet with victims.”
Creating office space out of one of the four jury rooms in the Justice Center was also being considered as a part of the possible changes.
Ultimately, the task force is recommending the DA’s office get the space currently used for the Criminal Court judges.
Judge Robert Cupp would be required to move his office, either to the empty Sessions Court office space or one of the jury rooms.
The task force will meet again in the next three to five weeks to determine if the proposed changes are possible.