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Ritchie County Expansion Delayed

By: Todd Baucher Stanley Jefferson Email
By: Todd Baucher Stanley Jefferson Email

Updated: 10/01/2013 2:00 P.M.

Plans for an expansion of the Ritchie County Courthouse are delayed.

County Commission President Sam Rogers says it needs more information on the area around the courthouse where the expansion is being planned.

That project has been the subject of a number of recent meetings, where residents have had questions about both the expansion and its financing.

Another public meeting was set for this week-but Rogers says that has been cancelled.

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Updated: 9/05/2013 8:45 P.M.

The reasons the Ritchie County Commission want to build on to the current county courthouse are these: a supreme court mandate and a desire to have all county offices at one location.

"Your state legislature has mandated the Supreme Court to require the county commission to supply this space for magistrate court and family law court," County Commissioner Stephen Worden said at a meeting Thursday afternoon.

The reasons members of the public don't want the project are the cost, possible disruption of on-site appearance, and the inconvenences of construction on downtown Harrisville businesses.

"Somebody here has to say, 'wait a minute, we haven't considered all the alternatives, certainly not at a public level'," one member of the public said at the meeting. "Until we do, the idea of voting on anything is absurd to me."

The meeting turned heated and even emotional at times. Commissioner Judy Watson said that, as a result of last week's public hearing, she and her fellow members were criticized, even ridiculed by residents.

"All of you, I consider my friends. And I don't want to make this so people don't speak to me any more, because I'm an 'elected person', and didn't decide the way you wanted me to."

A building commission member cited another controversy in pledging not to act hastily on this issue.

"Unlike Nancy Pelosi, I don't like to act on something before I read it first," said Tom McCullough, a member of the county's building commission. "Or say later, 'we'll find out what's in it after it's done'".

The county's building commission approved the second of three required readings on the project. The county commission is expected to do the same next week, with a public hearing planned for october third.

The county wants to fund the project with five million dollars in bonds, which are intended to include any unforseen cost overruns.

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The debate was on Thursday afternoon for people in Ritchie County at the public hearing.

Many people packed the courthouse to hear about the county commission's consideration to authorize construction of the proposed courthouse annex.

The project will cost an estimated $5,000,000.

And they want financing with a $4,000,000 federal loan over a term of 35 years.

Ritchie County Commission President, Samuel Rogers, says they're doing this to take care of the handicap access for the courthouse and add space to the supreme court.

Several people along with members of the commission had some mixed opinions.

"My heart tells me that we need an annex and we need a place or a building somewhere for these children when they come in," says Judy Watson of the Ritchie County Commission.

}"If the people of Ritchie County need a courthouse, the people Ritchie County need to pay for it. You're going to Uncle Sam to get the money. Uncle Sam's last figures is 96-trillion dollars in debt for unfunded liabilities. Uncle Sam doesn't have the money to loan Ritchie County period," added a Concerned Citizen.

No final decision has been made at this time.

Rogers says they have plans on paying back the loan should they chose that option.


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