On Feb. 11, we wrote, “tomorrow wouldn’t be too soon” to find temporary quarters and move workers out while the Lauderdale County Courthouse is made habitable.
Seven months later those workers continue to toil in crowded, unsafe conditions among mold, exposed wires, broken windows and peeling paint.
Would you want your mother working in those conditions – your son, your daughter, your father?
In those seven months, more grand juries have condemned their surroundings, a few courthouse workers have spoken out and the governor has been appalled, but the day-to-day workers continue to clean the paint chips off their desks and breathe the stale air within the building’s walls.
To their credit, the Board of Supervisors now appear committed to finding a solution ... but probably not for at least a few more months and only after more studies are completed by Yates Construction and LPK Architects.
It can safely be predicted the supervisors then will need more time to deliberate, find funding, negotiate contracts and then, maybe, finally, find a safe haven for courthouse workers.
Again, we commend their caution in making a decision that could cost county taxpayers in excess of $30 million.
We are baffled, however, at their lack of caution for the safety of the people under their care.
Given the courthouse's decay and tight quarters, it seems only a matter of time before those conditions cause illness, injury or worse. Beyond the greater importance of everyone’s health, the cost of compensation for illness, injury or worse could bring an unimaginable additional burden to county taxpayers.
The supervisors have found money for several preliminary studies, other county projects, travel and training. Certainly they can find money to rent space temporarily while they ponder a permanent solution.
What can be a greater priority than the health and safety of our people?
County officials have said a decision wouldn't be rushed, there would be no mass exodus from the courthouse. Forty years since the first study, seven months from a well-documented need for safety, patience should be at its limit.
As we wrote on Feb. 11, tomorrow wouldn’t be too soon” to find temporary quarters and move workers out of the Lauderdale County Courthouse.