11/09/09 — Court staff moves to third-floor offices

View Archive

Court staff moves to third-floor offices

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 9, 2009 1:46 PM

Assistant District Attorney Donya Strong likes the periwinkle blue walls of her new office. The additional space -- the office is about twice the size of her old one -- is "an added bonus."

Ms. Strong was among county courthouse staffers who moved into third-floor offices Friday, once home to the county planning and inspections departments, which moved to the Jeffreys Building in August.

The move to the old federal building, on John Street, freed up about 3,000 square feet on the third floor of the county courthouse annex.

The space has been cleaned and painted and new security locks added on some doors. The move initially was delayed because the phone lines had to be installed by the state.

County Manager Lee Smith had even floated the idea last month of the county fronting the money for the work to speed up the process.

That proved unnecessary after Resident Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones made a call to the Administrative Office of the Courts. The phones will be in use today.

"The state has to set up all of the lines and not just the phones themselves," Jones said. "The county moved out of a lot of offices on the third floor earlier this summer and the county worked hard to get those spaces for some judges, district attorneys and clerk of court. We are one of only a very few counties where our district court judges don't have any office space, except for our chief. Our clerk of court space is always a problem down there. They are working figuratively on top of each other."

Jones said it seemed that all the work had been accomplished to make the move to the new offices, but the delay was simply the phone lines.

After meeting with Clerk of Court Pam Minshew and District Attorney Branny Vickory, Jones called the AOC to inquire about the telephone system.

"I told him (AOC official Gary Miller) and expressed how concerned I was wanting to make sure we are utilizing all of the resources that we have and that we could not utilize that space for more work to be done until we have a phone system in place," Jones said.

Jones said Miller promised he would be back in touch that day and he was. Miller told Jones he had spoken with others at AOC and that the phone lines had been approved.

"I was excited that something could be done that quickly," Jones said. "I was happy to be able to tell the clerk and the DA and judges that it appeared it would not be months, but rather days or weeks before the move would take place."

Jones said he is unsure what caused the delay. He questioned whether the phone system would be a new system or an extension of the existing one. It will be an extension.

"What I am concerned about going forward is that I want a system that is compatible with the county system," he said. "The state has told me will have the new VoIP (voice over IP) telephone system and that Wayne County is in the next group to get that system and if budgetary concerns are not a problem it will be implemented beginning in January of 2010."

Jones said that for some reason the court offices receive calls from the public for other agencies, such as probation, parole or even the water office.

The new system will allow court staff to redirect those calls efficiently.

Jones said he is unsure of the cost of the VoIP.

The clerk of court, district attorney and district court judges primarily will use the third-floor space.

Jones said he understands that the estates division of the clerk of court's office will be relocated to the third floor.

"It will be the first time that the district court staff has been together that I know of in a central location," he said. "I think it will be good for them, similar like I have here with my assistant. If she were at the other end of the courthouse, it would certainly make what we do difficult."

The move will also make communication among judges easier.

"There is (now) no connection between (chief District Court) Judge David Brantley and other judges who are clear across the courthouse under what is near the concession vending machines. So if there were any kinds of questions they might have they are not in close proximity -- now they will be."

The staff is excited about the move, he said.

"Unless you saw the way it was before and saw the close quarters these people were in their working environments you couldn't really appreciate their situation," Jones said.

In another effort to provide more space, Jones hopes the county will be able to make some improvements for sound quality in the historic Courtroom One

More courtroom space will be needed come the first of the year when a new DWI court will start. The county has received a grant for a district court judge, clerk, DA to create in effect an extra court just to handle DWI cases.