Meridian Star

September 28, 2013

Grand jury report blasts courthouse conditions, again

By Brian Livingston / blivingston@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     In yet another report from another grand jury, members of the group blasted the conditions at the Lauderdale County Courthouse saying that some of the conditions were "deplorable."

    According to the report issued Wednesday, the members of this latest grand jury followed in the footsteps of many before it citing the building was in desperate need of renovations.

    "We are concerned the air quality in the courthouse is not safe for workers," the report states. "The roof needs work and the bathrooms are in bad shape."

    The report went on to say the grand jury members hope the county's recent bond issue will rectify some of these problems.

    About $4.2 million of the $14 million bond issue recently approved by members of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors by a 3-2 vote is earmarked for renovations at the courthouse.

    Josh Todd, District 3 Supervisor, Hank Florey of District 1, and Joe Norwood of District 4, voted to approve the bond issue. Todd said work is being done now to clear the seventh floor in the Lauderdale County Annex Building across the street to accommodate the courthouse workers.

    "We have to get a place for the workers to use before we go in and start the renovations of the courthouse itself," Todd said Thursday afternoon. "We considered leasing or renting a place but that would have cost too much."

    Todd said when the seventh floor of the Annex Building is ready, blocks of courthouse employees, for example the Chancery Court personnel, would be moved there while work in their area of the courthouse got underway. Todd said the plan is to work by a block system so as not to disrupt courthouse proceedings or work schedules any more than absolutely possible.

    Todd did not have a specific time table as to when work on the seventh floor of the Annex Building would be complete nor when work in the courthouse could begin.

    "We still have to wait while the group opposing the bond issue considers their next move," Todd said. "The local judge has ruled in our favor but there is still a question as to whether the group will take the issue to the state's Supreme Court."

    The grand jury members recommended county officials look into allowing groups in the community to take on some of the cosmetic problems as service projects.

    Members of the grand jury also found the roof in the Lauderdale County Adult Detention Facility needs repairs. The report said on the day the members visited the jail it was raining outside. The report said members of the grand jury could see multiple areas where leaks had formed. The jury members also touched on another hot button topic when they reported inmate crowding was an issue and that needed repairs were hampered by the fact the jail is at full capacity.

    This latest grand jury returned 155 indictments and declined indictments in four cases.

    Grand jury reports are issued at the end of a grand jury session.