Empty courthouse filling quickly

Published 11:01 am Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Charlotte County Facilities Committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors that the Charlotte County Registrar’s Office and the Department of Social Services share conference room space at the soon to be vacant Juvenile and Domestic (J&D) Relations Court building.

Additionally, the recommendation will include the office space of the J&D court building to be utilized by the registrar and a larger space created for voting equipment security accessible only to the registrar.

The recommendation follows several discussions and walk-throughs at the building, after speaking with each organization to discuss their specific needs.

“Now, they’re saying all they can see is that we need somewhere to store our equipment, when I tried to point out to them that we need more than somewhere to store our equipment,” said Charlotte County Registrar Nan Lambert.

Lambert said the current Registrar’s Office is not handicap accessible, adding “we’ve had heating and cooling problems since we’ve been there,” among other issues.

Lambert said her office took the time to map out the J&D space and provided a diagram to the facilities committee.

The soon-to-be vacant space will become available following the completion of Charlotte County’s new courthouse. The new courthouse will house the clerks, J&D court, courthouse staff, the Court Services unit and General District Court.

Keysville Supervisor and Facilities Committee Member Butch Shook said at a previous facilities committee meeting there were two requests for the space, one from the Registrar and one from Social Services.

“The Registrar’s Office did not just request to move its voting equipment into the soon-to-be vacant (building),” said  Lambert. ��We were told that when the new court building was finished we would be moving into J&D court facilities and that would, in fact, not only give us adequate space, but also meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance.”

Shook said, “we’ve listened to both sides . . . based on what I see, and I apologize for any misleadings or misguidance you got in the past, but based on what I see and what I hear, the courtroom waiting area should remain as it is to be shared.” However, he said the rest of the upfront space could be used by the registrar as seen fit.

Family Services Supervisor Emma Roberts said one of her concerns is staff safety. “When we have family partnership meetings, and we use the front room at social services, it’s only one door to get in that room and out . . .,” she said. Additionally, Roberts mentioned confidentiality as another concern with the existing conference room. “If someone gets loud or even raises their voice, you’re going to hear every bit of that in the hallway.”

“I think the shared room is the best option,” said Red House/Cullen Supervisor and Facilities Committee Member Nancy Carwile. However, she said the work on the voting machines could very well last longer than a meeting. “I do not like the idea of bringing the machine into the carpeted courtroom to work on it,” said Carwile. She said if the machines are left there for a day or two, they must be secure and locked, which would leave only one entrance into the courtroom. She said she would like to see them pulled out to a secure place.

“It is very sad that we are here at this time having this discussion,” said Wylliesburg/Red Oak Supervisor and Facilities Committee Member Kay Pierantoni. “We are where we are and we’ve got to make the decision as best as we can for all the citizens, for the voters, and for the families and children that use DSS, and that’s what I’m trying to do.” Pierantoni said she believes the situation can be worked out as shared spaces as well, adding “We want you to have the space that you need.”