County unveils courtroom upgrades

BUCKHANNON — The verdict is in, and both 26th judicial court judges believe the renovated Upshur County Circuit Courtroom is something to be proud of.

Judges Jacob Reger and Kurt Hall honored members of the Upshur County maintenance department Thursday morning with a special plaque to thank them for their hard work to revamp the courtroom so it’s now handicapped-accessible and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant.

The bulk of the renovations were funded through a $100,000 West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Grant, assistant county administrator Tabatha Perry said following a tour of the courtroom and short ceremony Thursday morning. Perry secured the grant — which had a 20 percent county match — with assistance from Region VII Planning and Development Council.

“The grant paid for making the courtroom fully ADA-compliant, so it paid for enlarging the doorways, changing the door hardware and changing the seating so there are four wheelchair spaces with companion seating in the back,” Perry said.

The main change, however, is a witness stand and judge’s bench that a handicapped person in a wheelchair can now easily access.

Facilities director Greg Harris gave county commissioners, administrators and circuit court employees a tour, pointing out the various changes.

“Of course, the main thing that we’ve done here is the ADA lift,” Harris said. “It’s set up so that it has three levels. This will actually drop down to level one so that you can actually put a wheelchair in there. Then you can bring it up to the witness level, which is the second level. Then, it will come up to the third level, which takes you into the judge’s bench. So down the road if you had a judge that needed that access, then we could do that.

“From my understanding this is only the second courthouse in the state of West Virginia that has one of these,” Harris added.

Reger presented Harris and maintenance department employees Mike Campbell and Mike Haler with a plaque engraved with their names that will be displayed in the bookcase in front of the entrance to the courtroom.

“We really appreciate what the county commission has done as it relates to the courtroom,” Reger said. “It’s been a lot of hard work. This wouldn’t have been done without the hard work of Greg and his people. Greg Harris is the supervisor (of facilities), and Mike Campbell and Mike Haler. It really made it easy, and I don’t think people understand how dedicated and how much hard work they have put into this, and we just wanted to show our appreciation — Judge Hall and I did — for everything that they’ve done.

“We want to display this out front so everyone will know who made this happen.”

Hall also expressed his gratitude, saying the maintenance department employees’ stellar work ethic impressed him daily.

“Every day, they amaze me with the detail of their work,” Hall said. “Sometimes, I would see them on their knees with sponges and Q-tips dabbing stain on things. They’re restoration experts. The before and after is so striking. The visual, that’s one thing, but the place also smelled bad, and now the old carpet is gone. It smells like furniture polish now. I think this is a courtroom that’s going to last a long time.”

While the courtroom was undergoing ADA renovations, the maintenance department also replaced the carpet, ceiling lights and made several additional improvements.

Reger said Upshur County is lucky to have Harris, Hale and Campbell.

“In other counties, they’d have to hire out the labor,” Reger observed. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about it, but with their abilities and expertise, that’s not the case here. We’re very appreciative.”

County commission president Sam Nolte also thanked Perry, county administrator Carrie Wallace and the maintenance department.

“The maintenance department has done a fantastic job,” Nolte said. “With the help of Tabatha (Perry, assistant county administrator), we were able to secure the grant. To the judges, we appreciate your patience through all this. I know it’s been a process.”

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