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What are the plans for the Jonesborough courthouse?

With the November 2009 opening of the George P. Jaynes Justice Center, all court services moved to the new facility off 11-E, along with many county services. The move left courtrooms and some offices open in the Main Street Courthouse.
A plan has yet to be announced for the space left in the Jonesborough facility. One body that still uses the courthouse is the Washington County Commission, but the commissioners do have the option of holding their meetings at the Justice Center.
That seems a smart move to make, considering the space restrictions of the current meeting space and the opportunities for use of the vacated meeting room. For years, meetings at the Downtown County Court House in Jonesborough have often been crowded. The space between the “bar” of the courtroom and judge’s bench is not large meaning that some commission members end up sitting in the jury box.
There is a large, Circuit Court courtroom at the Justice Center that could be utilized for commission meetings. With desks or other seating, the courtroom could be turned into a professional looking room for county business.
The County Commission could remodel the present chambers into a meeting room with permanent seating for members. Another use might be the establishment of office space for a Washington County Archive.
The proximity of the former courtroom to the facility that for many years housed the county jail makes establishment of the archive office a logical choice. Books and other records are currently being stored in the former jail cells. If the space is going to be used for storage, an upgrading of a heating and cooling system for the former county jail would be a necessity.
If both the Commission Chambers and an Archive are desired, the office portion of the archive could be located in the former Grand Jury Room or in the former Judges Office complex at the front of the court house.
Hopefully, grant funding could assist Washington County in the establishment of an archive.
The Register of Deeds office needs additional space for records. This space is now available on the first floor of the Downtown Court House in Jonesborough.
The Washington County deed records are some of the most historically valuable records in the State of Tennessee. They are being safely stored and preserved at the present time and should stay in the custody of the Register.
However, certain county records appear to be “at risk” currently. While adequately maintained by the Clerk, the records are in the “basement” of the Downtown Court House.
The building is in a flood plain and the basement area is subject to water damage from flooding. There has been at least one incident in the last few years when water did invade this area when electricity went off in the historic district of Jonesborough.
What do readers think concerning use of the Jonesborough courthouse space? Write your “Letter to the Editor” addressed to P. O. Box 277, Jonesborough, Tennessee 37659; fax the newspaper at 423-753-6528 or e-mail your opinion to [email protected]