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Officials ponders court locations

October 24, 2012
By WARREN SCOTT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

WELLSBURG -The Brooke County commissioners have made plans to tour possible new sites for the county's magistrate and family courts.

The courts have been operating on the third floor of the Progressive Bank Building since 2004, when they were moved from the first floor of the county courthouse so they wouldn't be flooded. But the state fire marshal's office has found that area of the building, which is separate from the first floor area used by the bank, doesn't meet regulations set by the state fire code.

The commissioners had made plans to move the courts into the former site of the Brooke County Museum at the corner of Main and Sixth streets. But County Commissioner Tim Ennis said Tuesday that officials with the state Supreme Court have expressed concerns about the building, which could result in costly renovations. The state Supreme Court sets standards for the courts ranging from the height of the magistrate's or family court judge's bench to office space allocated for court staff.

"Unless we get their (supreme court officials') approval, you can't do anything," Ennis said.

Prompted both by plans to move the courts to the museum and a desire for more space, the Brooke County Museum board has moved it to the former G.C. Murphy Store on Charles Street using a $90,000 grant from the state Division of Culture and History.

Asked if the commission has plans for the museum's former site, Ennis said it doesn't have any at this time.

A judicial annex where all of the county's courts and officials could be housed is something the commission discussed in the past but cost was a barrier.

In recent weeks, the commission was approached about leasing space in the Cross Law Office for County Prosecutor Joseph Barki III, who plans to work full time when he steps into the position in January.

Current County Prosecutor David B. Cross, who has chosen to step down from the position, suggested the lease because Barki isn't employed by his law office.

For many years Cross and the county's assistant prosecutors - who included his son, who is his law partner, and others who aren't employed by the law office - have worked out of Cross' office and the county didn't pay for its use.

The commission has hired attorney Michael Gaudio to negotiate for the lease on its behalf. The move was recommended by the state ethics commission because Cross, by state statute, is its usual legal counsel.

In other business, the commission:

Appointed Kenneth Lowmiller of Apple Pie Ridge to the Hammond Public Service District board. Lowmiller will fill a seat that became vacant with the resignation of K.D. Shaffer.

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