Sunday, March 2, 2003

Boone justice center ready

County building to offer more space, tighter security

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

[photo] The new 80,300-square-foot Boone County Justice Center is to open Monday. It cost about $15 million.
(Patrick Reddy photos)
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BURLINGTON - The courthouse is the center of any Kentucky county, and Boone County is getting a new center on Monday.

Just don't call it "the courthouse."

The long-awaited new Boone County Justice Center, big enough to hold both the old courthouse and administration building (where court cases are currently held) opens its doors Monday.

The 80,300-square-foot, state-funded facility and the nearly 3 acres of land it sits on cost around $15 million, $1 million less than what the Kentucky General Assembly budgeted during its 1998 and 2000 sessions.

[photo] Ronnie McCall, a technician with the Kentucky administrative office of the courts, installs a switch for a security camera in the traffic courtroom of the new Boone County Justice Center, which opens Monday.
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Be prepared to empty your pockets at the door and know that you're being watched wherever you go. The days of freely wandering the courthouse halls end as the new security system flips on. The new justice center was built out of a dire need for a more-secure court system with more space in a county where the population has doubled since 1980.

"The growth Boone County has seen and the tremendous pressure on our court system with added cases has caused the need for this new building," said Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore.

"It will provide us with the courtrooms we need now and three additional courtrooms for future growth and future judges."

The new facility will have seven courtrooms for traffic, district, family and circuit courts. It will also be the new office of Circuit Court Clerk Pat Gutzeit and her 32 employees.

Estimated actual cost: $15 million
Budgeted cost: $16.3 million.
• Built by 18 contractors and about 70 suppliers.
• 80,300 square feet, four stories.
Inside: 7 courtrooms.
• Law library.
• 36-camera surveillance system.
• Metal detector and X-ray machine.
Staff: Between 14 and 20 security personnel (full and part time).
Parking: 92 spaces in front, 55 spaces at Burlington Baptist Church behind building on East Bend Road.

What's on each floor of the new Boone County Justice Center?
Basement - Four holding cells for prisoners transported from the jail.
1st floor - Traffic courtroom, circuit clerk's office, driver's license applications and renewals, security control room.
2nd floor - Two district courtrooms.
3rd floor - Two family courtrooms, law library.
4th floor - Two circuit courtrooms.

Who's in the new Boone County Justice Center?
• Col. Jim Whalen - Justice Center security chief, 1st floor, 334-2175.
• Pat Gutzeit - Circuit Court clerk, 1st floor, 334-2286.
• Charles T. Moore - District Court judge, 2nd floor, 334-2230.
• Michael P. Collins - District Court judge, 2nd floor, 334-2230.
• Linda Bramlage - Family Court judge, 3rd floor, 334-3520.
• Joseph F. Bamberger - Circuit Court judge, 4th floor, 586-6565.

How to contact
Address: 6025 Rogers Lane, Burlington, KY 41005.
Phone: 334-2100.
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"We had files in our office and basement at the administration building, and more files in a storage unit the size of a two-car garage," said Gutzeit, who has files on criminal cases dating to the 1800s. "We've moved all of that over here and still have room to grow."

According to the latest statistics from the Administrative Office of the Courts in Frankfort, the number of circuit court cases heard in fiscal year 2001-02 was 2,101 - the highest in the county's history, and a 35 percent increase since 1995-96.

While district court cases in 2001-02 dropped by 1,300 from the previous year, the total of 14,024 cases is still 15 percent higher than six years earlier.

Boone County Circuit Court Judge Joseph F. Bamberger is the busiest circuit court judge in Kentucky, according to state records.

The first court case in the new building will be heard March 10.

"This building was built to have enough space to grow into for 20 years," said Robin Curry, the contracts administrator and human resources director for the county.

The center will have a single entry point for visitors, who will be required to go through a metal detector while passing their belongings through an X-ray machine.

The first floor will house Gutzeit's office and staff, along with a traffic courtroom and the drivers license applications and renewals office.

But one of the most heavily used offices - the drivers license office - will remain in the administration building until a later date, because of a delay in receiving some equipment.

Two district courtrooms will be on the second floor, while the third floor will contain a law library and two family courtrooms. Two circuit courtrooms will take up the entire fourth floor.

The offices of each judge - Charles Moore, Michael Collins, Linda Bramlage, and Bamberger - will be on the floors of their respective courtrooms in a secure area inaccessible to the public. Judges will also have their own entrance to the building and will always be monitored, from the time they get out of their cars to when they're in their offices.

The surveillance system includes 36 interior and exterior cameras monitored in a control room.

Col. Jim Whalen of the Sheriff's Department will be in charge of the Courtroom Services Division.

Between 14 and 20 full- and part-time officers will handle security.

"We'll conduct a review after the first 30 days, see how it's working, and see if we need to add staff," said Sheriff Michael Helmig.

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