COLUMBIA — The move into new offices at the Boone County Courthouse might be a little inconvenient, but Lana Brooks, unit manager, said it's nothing that she and the staff can't overcome.
“The staff has been extremely flexible,” Brooks said. “In the long run, it will be so well worth it that we’ve just made the best of it.”
The move began Tuesday and will continue through Friday. Construction on the courthouse began in October 2007 and is expected to be complete by the end of January, Southern Commissioner Karen Miller said.
Although the overall construction on the courthouse is not yet complete, people have begun to move into offices on the first floor. Most moves made this week will be temporary. However, the accounting department plans to move into its permanent offices on Friday.
“I’ll be glad to get back to the main office; it will be easier for us and the public,” traffic accounting clerk Crystal Kinsley said.
The accounting department has been separated since its temporary move in September. Kinsley is on the same floor as two other members of her department while other members are on a different floor.
“Once we have the division together, the supervisor will have an easier job and not have to run around seeing what each clerk is doing. It’ll be easier to have us all on the same floor,” Kinsley said.
Once all the construction is complete, many improvements will be made to the courthouse in addition to the new offices.
The juvenile department will be moved to the ground floor and will have more space, according to County Court Administrator Kathy Lloyd.
The new juvenile department will include a separate entrance for juveniles in custody and after-hours officers.
There will also be two holding rooms, so juveniles can wait in a secure location out of the public view, and one interviewing room, Lloyd said.
The ground floor will also include a room that will have a dual function as a waiting room and a place for juvenile programs during non-court hours.
“We’re trying to move juveniles and their families waiting for court out of the lobby,” Lloyd said.
Once construction is complete on the third floor, it will include a new courtroom and a jury assembly area.
The new courtroom will be very “high-tech,” Miller said. It will be equipped with improved assistant listening devices, a new audio-visual system and an HD camera, which will be operated from a separate room by the media.
The new audio-visual system will allow attorneys' laptops to feed into the system. Lloyd said this would function in a situation where “an attorney had a PowerPoint presentation, for example, on their laptop.
“If they were at attorney table A and tied into that system, the judge would be able to select 'attorney A laptop' from the touch screen at the judge’s station," Lloyd said. "Whatever is on the laptop, the judge will be able to see. The judge will be able to allow whomever he selects to view the evidence presented from an attorney’s laptop. If there are no objections, it can be displayed on the TV for the jury to see.
The system will also include an annotated screen at the judge's station, the attorney tables and the witness stand.
“Most generally, I think a witness would be annotating a document that might be being viewed. For example, they may show their path of travel on a map from the witness stand. That can also be annotated from the judge’s monitor and the attorney table,” Lloyd said. The judge can then print the document.
The system also includes access to video conference and teleconference. The video conference displays pictures from four different cameras, two displaying the attorneys, one for the judge and one for a party out of court.
“We’re looking for doing this for mental health patients,” Miller said. “It’s hard for mental health patients; a lot of them are older, and this will be better for them and will allow them to stay in a comfortable place.”
The teleconference feature will allow a one-way phone call to be placed. The feature will allow a language interpretation phone line to be called, which can be heard on the assistant listening devices in the courtroom.
Lloyd said the new system will be an improvement and will also help save money.
“The benefit in that scenario is that you don’t have to bring in a interpreter; you can use it from a language interpretation line,” Lloyd said.
The use of the assisted listening devices is mostly for spectators and would be used for preliminary or brief matters.
“If we have someone who wants to hear something in a unique language, we don’t have to bring someone in from St. Louis or Kansas City. It will now be available on the language line,” Lloyd said.
The jury assembly area will include a check-in station as well as a lounge area for jurors who arrive early. The lounge area will include phones, a couch and chairs and eventually a vending area.
“We want them to be comfortable and have a positive experience,” Lloyd said.
The third floor will also include two rooms for court marshal training, workspace for people in the court marshal department, a deliberation space for jurors, a judge’s chamber and a holding area.
In addition to the major changes in the courthouse, there were also improvements made to meet ADA regulations.
The budget for the project is $9.41 million, Miller said. It has been paid for through one-fifth-cent of sales tax, which was passed by voters in April 2006.