Massac County Main Courtroom Awaiting Repairs


By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Randy Livingston

METROPOLIS -- Massac County has been dealing with a leaky courthouse roof for years. The problem is now costing an important courtroom. Finding the money to make repairs remains a challenge.

The courthouse was built in 1942, and it has plenty of problems for its age. One big concern is the main courtroom. 
Massac County Commissioner Jerel Childers has watched the problems with the courthouse grow.  He says the board tried to fix it and pay for small repairs over the past years.
"I assume they didn't have the money," said Childers. "And we haven't had the money to work on it like we should."
Budgets have been tight, and Childers believes they'll face another shortfall in 2014. 
However, they'll need to find tens of thousands of dollars somewhere to buy a new roof. It's a project that will likely mean borrowing money. 
"It's lasted its life span plus nine years," said Childers. 
The windows and ceilings of the large courtroom are showing signs of water damage. On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Joseph Jackson decided to close it off.
"Couldn't take the chance of part of this ceiling falling on someone," said Childers. 
That leaves the courthouse with just one other courtroom.. It's a fraction of the size.
"The courtroom could hold about 20 people at most," said Massac County State's Attorney Patrick Windhorst. "And that's people standing alongside the walls."
Windhorst is looking over his options, since both spaces are used at the same time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 
"We're going to have to try to divide that up as best we can," said Windhorst. 
His office could deal with the cramped area, but there's no room for a jury. The search is on for a temporary spot.
"We're going to have to find another location to hold that trial," said Windhorst. "Whether it's a community center or another space in our county."
Another big inconvenience from moving court cases is the lack of access to the files, computers, and recording equipment found inside the courthouse. 
"Those are small things," said Windhorst. "But important things for the operation of the court system."
Childers says it could be months before the roof is fixed. The repairs would need to wait for dry weather.
The good news for Windhorst is that his jury trials for February could be pushed back for a short time. However, he does have felony cases in March that would need to go on as scheduled.
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