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Weather has delayed the opening of new Westmoreland Judicial Center

Westmoreland County Executive Norm Risavi said this week that weather problems have delayed the opening of the new Westmoreland County Judicial Center. “Weather has stopped us on a couple of things,” Risavi said.

“We have had difficulty getting materials and getting some of the finishing work done because of weather delays,” Risavi said. “We are trying to get things to a point where we can begin moving into the building by the end of May.”

The actual move into the new judicial center is being eagerly anticipated by county officials. “We are really excited about moving into the new building,” said Westmoreland County Circuit Court Clerk Gwynne Chatham.
“It will be great to have all of our offices in one building. We won’t have to continue trucking files from the courthouse to the courtroom in the English Building,” Chatham said.

Chatham has been the Westmoreland County Circuit Court Clerk since 1996 and has worked in the clerk’s office since the 1970s. “For almost 20 years, since the English Building was built, we have had to truck our files back and forth,” she said.

The new $8.4 million Judicial Center has been built on Polk Street in Montross adjacent to the one-story George D. English Memorial Building. It will house all three local courts and their associated clerks, the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office, the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Sheriff’s Office dispatch.

According Risavi, the new judicial center has been constructed with security as a main concern. “There have been a number of concerns about our present situation,” Risavi said. “So we are pleased this is going to solve that problem.”

The courts and most court officials are currently housed in the overcrowded English Building. The circuit court clerk and some other court officials operate from the old historic courthouse on Courthouse Square. The Sheriff’s Office and voter registrar are housed in separate buildings.

After all of those officials are moved, the English Building will be renovated to allow for meeting facilities for the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors.  County officials have not yet devised plans for the old courthouse and the other buildings being vacated.

The historic courthouse could be turned into space for other offices, or it could be turned over to the Westmoreland County Museum. There is a citizen proposal to make the soon-to-be vacant Sheriff’s Office and the voter registrar’s office, which are located on Courthouse Square, available for new business startups.

The new 40,000-square foot building, which was built by the Schlosser Company, Inc. of Chesapeake, is an up-to-date, modern, secure facility that has been badly needed by Westmoreland County for many years, according to county officials who are eager for its completion.

The new building is designed to remedy security problems with the current courthouse, where the accused are often forced to interact with witnesses, jurors, judges and the public on their way to the courtroom. The new design includes separate entrances and secure hallways so interaction is minimized.

Richard Leggitt

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