Local News

Chatham County secures space for court, prosecutors

Posted April 5, 2010 2:57 p.m. EDT
Updated April 5, 2010 4:11 p.m. EDT

— Chatham County officials said Monday that they have lined up space to hold Superior Court, following the March 25 fire that severely damaged the courthouse.

County officials also located temporary quarters for local prosecutors and probation officers.

“We are grateful for Chatham County’s quick response in finding us interim court facilities after the fire,” Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour said in a statement. “We know that this had to be done at a painful, frantic time when many actions had to be taken quickly.”

Court will be held in the auditorium of the county agricultural building for the next several months, Assistant County Manager Renee Paschal said. Officials hope to arrange more permanent space for the court during that time, she said.

The Chatham County District Attorney's Office will move into a vacant law office on West Street, while the probation office will move next to the General Store Cafe on West Street.

“Both of these facilities are located within walking distance of courtrooms and other court staff, which is an important factor for effective court operations,” Paschal said in a statement.

County commissioners voted last week to rebuild the landmark courthouse after structural engineers determined that the exterior walls and foundation were stable. The building's interior was gutted by the fire, and its clock tower collapsed.

Contorted copper beams have already been removed from the courthouse and could be preserved and used in a future building, officials said Monday. A restoration company will go inside the rubble Tuesday to determine whether any documents can be salvaged from the building.

Commissioners previously approved plans for a $21.1 million Judicial Center a few blocks from the courthouse to house the courts and related offices. Construction is expected to start this fall and last 18 to 24 months.

Investigators have determined that the fire was accidentally started by a contractor using a soldering torch. Crews were working on a $415,000 exterior renovation of the 129-year-old courthouse.