Sheriff left in limbo about office move
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Department has been making plans to be part of the massive move of county offices into the new courthouse in downtown Berkeley Springs, but the Morgan County Commission cast doubt on those plans at their March 4 meeting.
During a discussion about the sheriff’s budget needs for the rest of the year, Sheriff Vince Shambaugh inquired about the layout of his new offices in the current Magistrate and Family Court building.
“We’re looking forward to these changes,” said Shambaugh.
Commissioners Stacy Dugan and Brenda Hutchinson both told Shambaugh that he may not be moving his department into that space this year because of budgetary uncertainty.
Commissioner Tommy Swaim expressed his surprise and frustration at the idea of keeping the police in their cramped quarters at the rescue squad building on U.S. 522 south of town.
The department moved there following the August 2006 courthouse fire. Just before the fire, the department had moved into brand-new offices in a renovated section of the old courthouse.
Swaim said the renovations needed to make the Magistrate building suitable for the Sheriff’s Department would not cost much and could largely be done by the county’s maintenance staff.
Dugan said repeatedly that she wanted to see formal bids to show what the work would cost.
“I want to know how much renovations are going to cost. I want a bid,” she said.
She also noted that the county still owes $190,000 on the Magistrate building, but didn’t explain how that debt factored into the decision to move the Sheriff’s Department.
There was no mention of who else might move into the building once the Magistrate Court relocated to the new courthouse.
Parking & office alternatives
Commission President Brenda Hutchinson said her primary concern about bringing police back to the courthouse was the already-tight parking situation in downtown Berkeley Springs.
She also said she wasn’t crazy about the idea of tearing the oak woodwork out of the large courtroom in the Magistrate building.
Hutchinson asked if the Sheriff’s Department could function where it was if the county invested some money in the squad building to expand offices.
“You’d have to expand the building,” said Shambaugh.
Later, Shambaugh said the physical location on U.S. 522 was fine, but that the space and arrangement of offices has never been sufficient for his 11 deputies and two secretaries.
He said there was some talk early on about adding on to the squad building, but that hadn’t been addressed recently.
During the meeting with county officials, Shambaugh said, “I’ve been operating out of a broom closet for a couple of years.”
Swaim described the sheriff’s current office arrangement as “chaos.”
Dugan was also concerned about furniture costs and computers for the sheriff’s department if they move out of the squad building.
“I’d like to see a bid for every desk, chair, computer,” she said.
“I don’t understand. We’re giving everyone in the courthouse brand new furniture and the Sheriff’s Department have ended up with hand-me-downs,” Swaim replied.
Hutchinson said she planned to go out to the Sheriff’s Department to see their current office set up and wanted to talk more about the fate of the Magistrate building during budget meetings this week.
“I’m curious to see what your situation is,” she told Shambaugh.
Swaim said he has spent plenty of time there, and did not need to take another tour of the department.
“You’ve hardly got room to turn around in your office,” he said to Shambaugh.
County officials plan to move offices into the new courthouse in early summer.