Courting expansion

6 courtrooms set to open in 2008

Posted: Monday, August 27, 2007

 

  William Green, a project superintendent with G and S Construction, operates a backhoe and begin ripping up concrete in front of the Kenai Courthouse on Friday afternoon as part of a construction project to add new courtrooms to the existing building. Photo to Joseph Robertia

William Green, a project superintendent with G and S Construction, operates a backhoe and begin ripping up concrete in front of the Kenai Courthouse on Friday afternoon as part of a construction project to add new courtrooms to the existing building.

Photo to Joseph Robertia

No, there's no need to report the theft of the sidewalks from in front of the Kenai Courthouse.

Driven by the addition of judicial staff, the courthouse will be growing in size over the next several months.

New courtrooms will be added in a sort of "T" configuration to the south end of the existing building, resulting in a total of six courtrooms, one for each of three Superior Court judges, one for the District Court judge and one for each of two District Court magistrates.

Although the building contractor G and S Construction has until September 2008 to complete the job, Kit Duke, facilities manager for the Alaska Court System in Anchorage, said Friday, "because he is starting now, he expects to be finished in 10 months."

Duke said one of the existing judge's chambers "will be sacrificed" during the new courtroom construction, but she said a small wing of offices for judges and staff will be added.

During construction, visitors to the courthouse are asked to use the north entrance to the building. Construction activity is under way at the south end where the public entrance was.

Construction work has necessitated cordoning off about one-third of the facility's parking lot, and Kenai Clerk of Court Deirdre Cheek said she has asked her employees to park as far from the building as possible to make room for the visiting public.

The public also is being allowed to park in the area formerly reserved for officers of the court.

"We have spoken with the judges and we will try to stagger start times if two (jury) trials start on the same day," Cheek said, further aiding the tight parking situation.

The parking lot generally is full on Thursdays, the day traffic court is scheduled; on Mondays, when jury selection normally takes place; and on the Fridays when a new grand jury panel is being selected.

"People can park on the street," Cheek said.

Kenai Police Lt. Kim Wannamaker said police will give "reasonable accommodation" to motorists parking on the street near the courthouse.

In Kenai, street parking is prohibited between 4 and 8 a.m. from Oct. 1 to May 1 to allow for snow removal.

"We will have additional parking for staff on the north side of the building and will be adding some additional spaces 15 to 20 for the public on the south end," Duke said regarding the project's completion.

The cost of the expansion is $5.2 million, Duke said. When complete, 11,000 square feet of space will be added to the existing 32,000 square feet, she said.

Although Superior Court Judge Charles Huguelet has left for military deployment in Iraq, visiting judges will be filling in during his one-year absence, according to 3rd District Court Administrator Wendy Lyford.

Huguelet has been deployed with the U.S. Air Force to the Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq. An instructor with the Judge Advocate General's staff, he expects to be helping Iraqis with the financial end of rebuilding projects.

Lyford also said newly appointed Superior Court Judge Carl Bauman is slated to begin hearing cases in Kenai no later than Oct. 15.

Kenai District Court has one slot open for a magistrate, but that will not be filled until a new courtroom is available, Lyford said. Magistrates in Alaska are hired by the presiding judge. Judges are appointed by the governor.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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