Plans under way for courtroom, offices

Posted: December 7, 2012

The Winchester Star

Frederick County and Winchester officials are discussing a $3.5 million renovation to the Joint Judicial Center in Winchester, pictured above. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Construction of a new courtroom and renovations to existing office space in the Joint Judicial Center were listed as two of several needed renovations during Thursday’s meeting of the county and city’s Joint Finance Committee.

An agreement between Winchester and Frederick County calls for the localities to provide joint funding for the center. Each government likely will put $150,000 from its current fiscal year’s budget toward hiring a design firm to look at ways to maximize space in the building and address other deficiencies, according to Corey MacKnight, Winchester’s facilities director.

MacKnight said that the renovations will cost approximately $3.5 million — with the city and county each paying half, split over the next two fiscal years.

The center, which was built in the 1980s, had a new courtroom added to the third floor about seven years ago. But because of the heavy workloads in both the city and county systems, it isn’t enough.

“We have to put another courtroom in,” MacKnight said after the meeting. “Right now, [Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court] offices are using a space that should have been a courtroom to begin with.

“What has to happen is they need to move out in order to build another courtroom, but when they move other people have to shuffle around.”

City Manager Dale Iman said Winchester included its share of the design fee in its budget for the current fiscal year.

“We need to proceed with looking at the deficiencies of the building to identify what the needs are to make [it] more functional for those who use it on a daily basis,” Iman said after the meeting.

He added that the project’s scope is unknown at this point and that the design study will help Winchester and Frederick County determine what needs to be done.

Bill Ewing, a Frederick County supervisor and chair of the county’s Finance Committee, said after the meeting that it shouldn’t be a problem for the county to allocate $150,000 for the design study and that the Finance Committee will discuss the matter at its next meeting.

“[Joint Judicial Center funding] is an agreement we’ve got between the two localities and we’ve got to honor our part of the agreement,” Ewing said.

He added that the proposed $1.75 million the county might have to pay probably will require more discussion before those funds are allocated during its next budget processes.

The new courtroom would be added to the Joint Judicial Center’s second floor. Renovations likely would occur in 2014 and 2015, MacKnight said.

— Contact Matt Armstrong at marmstrong@winchesterstar.com