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Group hopes for new courtroom

Pike County court officials came before the commission Monday in hopes of securing funds to build a new courtroom.

While the commission made no decision officially Monday, its members were addressed by Pike County Circuit Judge Jeff Kelley with the request to convert the current law library into a third jury trial courtroom.

Kelley said the library houses books that have not been updated for the last 10 to 12 years and even if they had, would rarely be used with the advent of the Internet.

And, with two courtrooms in the Pike County Courthouse, three circuit judges and one district judge in need of trial space, he said the conversion would be a positive move.

Citing increases in the workload of District Judge William Hightower and a need to move cases along quicker, Kelley said a courtroom conversion would allow the county to hold two to four more jury trials per year.

But, the catch for the commission will come at around $13,000 on its part of the funding. The rest would come from $16,000 Kelley said the judges have secured, totaling around $28,000 for the project’s completion.

With the money, Kelley said the county would preserve the law library but make room for a jury box, bench, witness stand and wooden rails.

The project would be completed by the Department of Corrections, which would save money, said Pike County Bar Association President Malcolm McSwean.

While the group requested the funds as soon as possible, County Administrator Harry Sanders said from a budgeting standpoint, it could make things easier on the county’s part to wait until it passes the next year’s budget in October.

Still, Kelley said a simple commitment would give them leverage to begin the project and get reimbursement.

The commission also gave the OK to Sanders and County Engineer Russell Oliver to draw a line of credit for payments on the Henderson Highway resurfacing project.

Oliver said this would just be temporary, pending final payments from an industrial access grant. Similarly, the commission also approved federal funds that will be granted for emergency repairs made to Needmore Road and also for a $25,000 grant for new cameras in the Pike County Sheriff’s Department vehicles.