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County may reopen front doors at Courthouse

A sign diverts the public from the front door to a side door at the Grove Street Courthouse. A sign diverts the public from the front door to a side door at the Grove Street Courthouse.

The side entrance to the Grove Street courthouse, created as a temporary fix for security reasons, could be a thing of the past at the 1995 building where the civil and criminal judicial system resides.

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners has agreed to spend $727,623 so far on a security upgrade, card-entry doors and gates and parking lot improvements at the building.
The work comes after a false start two years ago, when bids for security upgrades and a full renovation came in $300,000 over budget. Commissioners rejected the bids in March of 2014 and sent county engineers back to the drawing table for a new look.
“The board is still contemplating how to organize the courthouse as far as the functions but it recognized the importance of the security aspect and wants to proceed with those improvements,” County Engineer said. “The first two phases we can do without the help of an architect.”
Those involve the first phase, including security cameras and card access parking lots. Earlier this month, commissioners authorized a $128,873 contract with Riddle Construction Company for parking lot improvements in the north and south lots that will give judges secure access. The tax collector’s office will get eight security cameras. And the county awarded a $25,000 design contract to architect Tamara Peacock to design the access.
“One part is to install doors that create a threshold between staff and court officials and the public,” Jones said. “Probably the most important and most notable would be relocation of the current temporary screening station from the north side to the front and that requires a handicapped access lift.”
The project is complicated by the proximity of the interior staircase.
“If you can envision the sheriff’s screening station and then room for queuing space for the public on busy days, it gets pretty crowded,” Jones said. “Anytime you’re trying to do something after the fact there’s compromise.”
The architect who drew plans for the original renovation proposed removing the staircase.
“The board was concerned about,” Jones said. “I imagine that it would be well into spring before we got that work completed.”
Based on the original $1 million budget, the county has $190,000 to finish the security upgrades.