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County opens $9M judicial center

The new Westmoreland County Judicial Center — a facility that has been in the planning stages for 25 years — officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday.

The Westmoreland Board of Supervisors, local officials from Montross and Colonial Beach, the county’s constitutional officers and a happy crowd of well wishers were on hand to mark the occasion.
“We’re glad to be here to witness this historic moment,” said Westmoreland Board Chairman Darryl Fisher. “We live in a society where there has to be rules and order. We built this facility so that we might be able to conduct the people’s business.”

The new 40,000-square foot, $9 million judicial center will house the Westmoreland County judges, courts and clerks, as well as the office of the commonwealth’s attorney, the sheriff’s office and the probation and parole offices.

The Westmoreland County courts have been housed in the nearby Glenn English building since 1991, when they were moved from the aging Westmoreland County Courthouse.  The English building will be refurbished and used by the county board of supervisors, as well as the county administrator and other county officials.
“I just want to say thank you to everybody who has been involved in this endeavor,” Sheriff C.O. Balderson said. “We wanted to have the most efficient, most safe building it was possible to have, and we have done that.”

Safety and security were the driving issues that pushed the building to completion.  After almost four decades in the old county sheriff’s offices, Balderson’s officers will be moving into a new facility with modern, enhanced security measures including a sally port for transferring prisoners and secured hallways so there will be no contact between prisoners and the public.

The new facility will have room for 50 prisoners at a time. There will be new secured attorney-client conference rooms, as well as waiting rooms for visitors and witnesses. The new building has a state-of-the-art, hard-wired communications center, as well as cameras throughout the building and panic buttons in the event of an emergency.

Judges, county officials, clerks and the buildings’ other occupants are scheduled to move into the new facility Aug. 22. Already the halls and walls of the English Building are stacked with files as dozens of employees prepare for the move.

“This facility has been needed for a long time,” said Westmoreland Supervisor Woodrow Hynson. “We were using an old office building for the courts, and the sheriff’s office was badly in need of improvement. We needed more modern, secure facilities.”

“It is a much, much more secure situation that what we have had,” said Norm Risavi, the county administrator. Risavi, who has been a driving force trying to keep the new building on budget and on time, said the new facility will also have enhanced fire prevention, protecting people and files.

“This new building is amazing,” said Balderson, who expressed his appreciation to the board of supervisors and taxpayers for the new facility. From the beginning, we wanted it to make it safe from a law enforcement and a judicial point of view, and we have done that.”

Richard Leggitt

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