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Courthouse targeted for TLC

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By Alice Du Pont

The Gadsden County Courthouse was built 100 years ago this year and could use some much-needed repairs. While the structure was completed in 1912, it has been in continuous use since 1913. The repairs will require an estimated $326,295 for essential renovations, according to Chief Judge of the Second Judicial Circuit Charles Francis and Gadsden County Judge Kathy Garner. A budget amendment was requested and approved for the repairs.

The Gadsden County Board of Commissioners heard during their regular Jan. 15 meeting, from court administrator Grant Slayden that extensive roof work is needed for: gutter re-roofing, overflow drains, new windows in gutter for warranty, new gutters, down spouts and storm piping. In addition, elastomeric coating of balusters and wall caps, repairs to upper metal main roof and re-coating galvalume are needed.

In the main courtroom infrastructure, upgrades include installation of a sound system as well as power and data needs for court operations, in-house removal of rear wall and ceiling track removal of old curtain divider and modest flooring and painting finishes due to power and data upgrades.

In addition to the problems with the courthouse, the 75-year-old Guy Race Judicial Complex building, which houses the Public Defender’s office on the second floor, also is in need of repairs. The area is minimally in need of carpet and paint there are indoor air quality concerns.

“Carpet is ripped and torn, and people are tripping over it. Loose wires are all over the place. The ceiling tiles have mold and vestiges of the old roof,” said Nina Moody, chief assistant public defender for Gadsden County. Public Defender Nancy Daniels agreed with Moody, adding that the office is not a safe place to work and is an “eyesore.”

With two buildings in dire need of repairs as quickly as possible, commissioner asked facilities director Clyde Collins what needs immediate attention and what could wait.

“The gutter around the Courthouse is in bad shape, and it’s leaking inside the judge’s chambers,” he said.
He said he believed both projects can be completed within the $326,295 budget.

Commissioners also approved a cost-haring agreement between the Second Judicial Circuit of Florida, Gadsden County and the five other counties in the Second Judicial Circuit for a circuit-wide integrated computer system.

The agreement stems from mandated 2009 action taken by the Legislature, which requires that all court documents be electronically filed. The electronic filing requirement first went into effect for the Supreme Court and district courts of appeal on Oct. 12, 2012 The deadline for civil, probate, small claims, and family law courts goes into effect April 1, 2013. The deadline for criminal, traffic and juvenile courts goes into effect Oct. 1, 2013.

Electronic filing grants the Clerk of Court the opportunity to go paperless, saving resources, funds, staff and time while increasing efficiency, according to Slayden. For the Clerk to go paperless, requires that the court have some means to retrieve, view, edit and send these electronic documents back to the Clerk.

Leon County will serve as the fiscal agent and front costs. Each county will reimburse Leon County when invoiced.

Slayden said implementation of the aiSmartBench in Gadsden County should be completed in fiscal year 2013-2014 and most likely during the month of November.

In other business, commissioners:

• Reluctantly approved a one-year extension to the auditing firm of Purvis, Gray and Company of Tallahassee. The auditing contract was approved for the company in the years ending 2010, 2011 and 2013. The current contract ends with the completion for the year by March 31.

• Clerk of Courts Nicholas Thomas requested, according to procurement director Arthur Lawson that the contract be extended so that the company would train a member of Thomas staff in the requirements of the auditing process. The extension would cost the county $138,000 for the year 3013 and $142,000 for the year 2014.

“If the Clerk’s office is going to ask for an extension, he should be here to answer questions,” said Commissioner Brenda Holt. Commissioner Eric Hinson agreed.

• County Attorney Deborah Minnis said she had corresponded with the attorney for national Solar Energy, who assured her that the company is moving forward with identifying more sites for solar farms in Gadsden County.