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District Attorney General's Office moving out of cramped space in Justice Center to large facility

Becky Campbell • Dec 25, 2018 at 11:21 PM

When Washington County’s George Jaynes Justice Center opened nine years ago, the district attorney general’s office got the short end of the stick when it came to office space.

Instead of gaining space in the spacious building, the DA’s office was crammed into a 3,000-square-foot area to house 17 attorneys, three office assistants, the receptionist and a victim witness coordinator. 

A big complaint about the area was that one restroom in the office has barely enough room to turn around. The offices with closing doors are located around the perimeter of the office, while the center has cubicles where office assistants and a copy cubicle are crammed into.

From the beginning, the late District Attorney General Tony Clark, who died unexpectedly in March, had been working to get an improved space for his attorneys. His plan is finally coming to fruition as the DA’s office prepares to move into a 9,000-square-foot building.

“This will serve the district attorney’s office for years to come,” District Attorney General Ken Baldwin said.

Some features of the new location are:

• 17 offices for attorneys;

• Baldwin’s office and his office manager’s office, which are connected into a suite;

• a large conference room;

• large trial prep room;

• a public restroom;

• separate men’s and women’s staff restrooms;

• a fully equipped kitchen and break room area;

•  large waiting room with several chairs; and 

• a child’s play room for when attorneys need to talk to parents without children present.

Before the new building became a reality, several theories were tossed around to renovate the courthouse offices to make more room: one that would have enclosed a large foyer area, another finishing out a second-floor area currently not enclosed. Some assistant DAs now have offices that were once designated as attorney/client conference rooms and open directly into the foyer outside the DA’s office.

When Clark died in March, he had been working to find a more suitable office space, even if it meant moving his office out of the courthouse. Former Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe said Clark asked him if he had any building space available that would meet the DA’s office needs.

As it turned out, Wolfe was renovating a strip building that once housed several businesses. He designed the building in such a way that it could be used by one business or be divided into six different businesses.

With the county footing half the rent and the state paying half, it was one of the best options, Clark said many times before his death.

The sticking point was getting the state to officially sign off on the building, which didn’t happen until after Clark’s death. But now, all the signatures are on the lease and the new location — just a few hundred feet away — is ready for occupancy.

District Attorney General Ken Baldwin, who was appointed to the position after Clark died, then ran unopposed in the August election, was able to get the deal closed and said the move will take place in mid-January.

The new space will triple the square footage of the current location in the courthouse. The file storage room alone is 1,500 square feet. Right now, the office has more of a closet for file storage that is also where a secure server is located.   

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