ELIZABETHTON — Judges will be safer at the Carter County Courthouse now.
Workers removed the last filing cabinets and other heavy furniture from the third-floor storage area for the county property assessor Wednesday. Most of the other county officeholders have also removed their old records from the third floor.
The cleanup and removal of items on the third floor was accomplished after Circuit Court Judge Jean Stanley become alarmed about a sagging ceiling in the judges’ chambers. The chambers is on the second floor, directly below all the heavy filing cabinets.
It was discovered that not only was the weight causing floors to sag, it was also pulling the interior walls away from the exterior. A large crack had formed in the walls. Stanley said she would not hold court in the building until the problem was corrected.
Mayor Leon Humphrey sounded the alarm during the Sept. 9 meeting of the Building and Grounds Committee of the county commission. Property Assessor Ronnie Taylor added another concern. He said Deputy Clerk Pam Worth had her office on the third floor and in the event of fire, there was no fire escape for her.
Committee member Buford Peters immediately made a motion to move the records from the third floor and place them in a vacant office in the Carter County 911 Building. It was initially recommended to move Worth’s office to the conference room. That was amended the next month to move her to a vacant second-floor office in the Courthouse where the Planning Commission had once been located.
For the past two weeks, workers from the Carter County Jail have been kept busy moving all the heavy records to the 911 building and to the main offices on the first and second floors. Some of the old records were deemed unnecessary and the County Records Committee ordered them destroyed.
Worth said the job of moving her office also took two weeks. She got her Internet hookup accomplished Tuesday.
“It is not just a matter of moving a desk and chair and some filing cabinets,” Taylor said. The office was repainted and the old carpet taken up and replaced.
“I had to go through the files and make sure we had everything we needed,” Worth said.
Even the Internet hookup was complicated by the fact her Internet had to go straight into the state comptroller’s office in Nashville.
Humphrey said the files’ removal is just the first step of the cleanup.
Because the courthouse elevator does not go to the third floor, offices on that floor cannot be used for public business, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Taylor said unused space naturally became a “catch all” for anything not needed but too good to just throw away.
There is a lot of old furniture that has been stored on the third floor. These items will be move out for a county auction to be held in the spring.
Humphrey said the county is also working with the Elizabethton Historic Zoning Commission to restore the Courthouse windows to their original design. A total of 13 windows need to be replaced. He is also searching for energy-efficiency grants to help with an improved central heating and air conditioning system that will enable all the old window air conditioners to be removed.
From the time the problem was discovered until it was corrected was just more than a month, but Humphrey said the county government has accomplished quite a bit during his administration.
“We made repairs to the Veterans Monument.” That including making repairs to a leak that was threatening the integrity of the structure.
He said more than a million dollars has been received to help with improvements, including a Forest Service grant that was used to pave Dennis Cove Road. Next spring, $450,000 in grant money will help repave State Line Road.