CHIPLEY — Washington County employees are getting settled into their new offices in the County Annex building, and it looks like they will be at the annex for the foreseeable future.
“I don’t think we will be going back for at least a year,” said Chief Deputy Clerk Lora Bell. The courthouse closed its doors on Thursday, Dec. 19, and the county employees spent the rest of that week moving to the annex and setting up shop.
On Dec. 12 during the Board of County Commissioners meeting, the board approved of County Coordinator David Corbin shutting down the courthouse and relocating the Clerk of Court’s office in the case that mold clean-up in the courthouse takes longer than a couple of days.
County Attorney Jeff Goodman explained on Dec. 12 that during the process to repair damage to the Washington County Courthouse, mold was found in the basement, in the third floor and in air duct feeding to several rooms.
“The courthouse has already elected not to use the court rooms and the judges have already moved to the courthouse annex,” said Goodman. “We’re doing this to see if we can get things resolved over the Christmas holiday, however I recommend that if it takes more than a few days that David have the authority to shut down and relocate the Clerk of Court and give a status report in January.”
The county offices were open at their new location on Monday, but there was still a lot of unpacking and moving to do.
The County Courthouse was shut down due to issues with mold, but the building was already having issues with flooding and pieces falling off.
“We were already having flooding issues, but the floods in July and August really escalated the problems,” Bell said. The records, which were stored in the basement of the courthouse, will have to be professionally cleaned before employees or the public can have access to them. “They are off limits until they are cleaned,” she said.
Circuit Court Judge Patterson has moved his office to the annex as well, while County Judge Colby Peel has moved to the Sheriff’s Office, Bell said. The county probation office is now located at the county jail.
Corbin said the move has gone smoothly and the county employees are working toward getting everyone situated. The annex also has added some locked doors and the courthouse bailiff will be on hand at the annex for added security.
Court will be held in the courtroom annex at the old courthouse location, and possibly in the Commission Board Room at the annex if there is a conflict in scheduling, Bell said. She added that the county will have to find a storage location for county records.