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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Courthouse work to begin soon
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File Photo: When renovations to the Franklin County Courthouse are complete, the public will no longer be allowed to enter the front doors of the building. The main entrance will be on the basement level, the current entrance to Juvenile and Domestic Court.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

This will not be your grandaddy's Franklin County Courthouse.

The long-planned renovation of the courthouse will begin soon, which means the public will eventually have only one entrance in and out of the facility and be screened before entering.

Jack Murphy, an engineer with Thompson & Litton, told the board of supervisors Tuesday that a low bid of $1.4 million has been presented for the work by Price Buildings Inc., a Callaway construction company.

The board approved moving forward into negotiations with the company as far as finding any possible cost reductions, and if negotiations are successful, the work will start in April.

Renovations include a single entrance for the public with metal detectors and x-ray equipment. The entrance will be located at the ground floor on the south side of the courthouse beside the parking lot.

All other entrances now being used will be closed to the public, including the traditional main entrance on Main Street.

During construction, a temporary entrance for the public will be on the east side across from the sheriff's offices.

One of the main goals was to segregate the general public from staff, judges and prisoners by using a single point of entry.

An elevator will be included in the addition for secure access to the courthouse's four floors.

The facility will have signs pointing people to the courtrooms, clerks offices and other routine destinations within the building.

The area between the courthouse and sheriff's office will also be secure so prisoners can move between buildings with no contact with the public.

Plans also include a comprehensive alarm system, including video surveillance.

The $1.2 million has already been set aside for the project in a courthouse security account. About half of that money is funding left over from the government center project. The rest is from savings on other projects.

In 2011, the board approved a change in the County Code to increase fees for anyone involved in a civil, criminal or traffic case in Franklin County by up to $3. That fee hike, which will bring in about $10,000 a year, will also help pay for courthouse upgrades, said county Finance Director Vincent Copenhaver.

Murphy said the project should be completed by December.

The courthouse renovation plan is the result of a 2010 evaluation of the courthouse by the state Department of General Services (DGS), which found that all courtrooms were in noncompliance with safety and security guidelines.

The main part of the courthouse was built in 1909, and is one of only a few in the state that has no security, allowing the public to move freely in and out of several different entrances.

That report led to the board hiring the architectural firm of Thompson & Litton to design changes to place the courthouse in compliance.

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