UPDATE: Impact of Federal Building Closure

By: Todd Baucher Email
By: Todd Baucher Email
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UPDATE 11/19/2013 4:20 PM

For decades it bustled with federal offices ranging from federal court to Congressional offices.

Now the federal building closes for good.

Local leaders say it's not a surprise.

But it is a blow to downtown Parkersburg and the area.

Officials tell us they've knew about it since earlier this month, when they visited the area's Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C.

In recent years the federal building has been underused, particularly the courts, which take up an entire floor of the more than 50-year old complex.

A statement issued late Monday by Robert Chambers, Chief Judge of West Virginia's Southern District, says the court's caseloads have declined since 1992, when then-judge Charles Haden relocated to Charleston.

Judge Chambers calls the courtroom functionally difficult for modern trials using current computer technology.

In addition to the closing of the courts, the U.S. Postal Service plans to vacate the building next August.

Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell is optimistic the building space can be utilized in the future, especially with the growing oil and natural gas drilling industry in the area.

"We would like to have the opportunity for the Wood County Development Authority to at least have the option at looking at that building, and taking it for a business incubator," says Mayor Newell. "There's going to be docking space; there could at least some downstream use for it."

The federal government currently spends more than $132,000 a year to rent space in the building.

Also an issue are the current federal budget climate and supreme court-imposed cost-saving measures.

Mayor Newell says the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security offices remain in the building, and he hopes those will stay for the forseeable future.
Parts of it haven't been used in years.

And now the federal courthouse in downtown Parkersburg is closing.

U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers made the announcement Monday that business at the courthouse will end Friday.

Judge Chambers said the General Services Administration found the building needs as much as $1.5 million in repairs.

The GSA also says a U.S. Post Office in the building is leaving next August.

The courthouse has several vacant offices and the courtroom hasn't had a full-time judge in more than 20 years.

Now court cases involving Wirt and Wood Counties will be heard by the federal court's Charleston division.

Last year the U.S. Postal Service consolidated its Parkersburg mail processing center with its Charleston operations.

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