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By Sally Vothfirstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Dee Burner delivered her verdict of the new Shenandoah County District Courthouse: beautiful.
She and her husband, Marvin, who live close to the new facility, decided to take a peek during Saturday's public tour.
The Burners said they watched every day as the facility was being built.
"We wanted to see what it looked like inside," Mrs. Burner said. "It's beautiful. It's gorgeous. We can't believe it's this much room in here."
It's been a long time coming -- 10 years, according to Board of Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley, who gave a history of the process, starting with late District 4 Supervisor Barry Murphy telling his fellow board members that the historic courthouse was deteriorating.
In 2002, the board bought the former Safeway building across Mill Road from the new courts facility. It was mentioned as a possible future court site. That idea and several others were discarded before it was decided a new building would be constructed behind the county government center.
Helsley noted the project came in under budget, will have Internet connection and is equipped with a geothermal heating and cooling system.
"We're moving from an antiquated, unsecure, overcrowded building to one that's state of the art with maximum security," he said.
There is a metal detector in the very front of the courthouse, but it's not known if it will be continuously manned, because of staff shortages within the Sheriff's Department, Lt. Ronnie Sherfey, court services commander, said on Thursday.
In his invocation, Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp asked for wisdom for those who will work at the new facility.
"We gather here for this historic occasion with gratitude in our hearts for the great privilege of living in this place where the glories of your creation surround us each day, and where we find an abiding sense of community," he said.
It's taken 40 years, but the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court finally has its own home, said Judge William H. Logan Jr. The first court was pretty basic, he said.
"The courtroom consisted of a metal folding table and metal folding chairs," Logan said.
"On hot summer days, air conditioning was provided by opening the windows."
Now, there are five juvenile and domestic relations judges and that court meets three days a week in Shenandoah County alone.
While the family courtroom is on the second floor of the new courthouse, General District court will meet on the ground floor. There is ample space in the middle for various agencies and offices.
Following a few more speeches and a ribbon cutting -- and just making it inside before a thunderstorm began -- dozens of people, including judges, court workers, attorneys and county employees, entered the courtroom for a tour.
Murphy's widow, Linda, joined the Board of Supervisors in cutting the ribbon. She said her late husband, who died in August 2005, would have been thrilled with the final product.
"I love it," she said. "Barry was always concerned about the judges possibly being [the] target of someone because the security was just not up to snuff in the other one. Or, even the employees in the courthouse. This will be marvelous, plus it's something that they will be able to use for years and years and years.
"I know Barry would be very proud of this and the [also newly constructed health and] human services building."
Assistant County Administrator Mary Beth Price said workers will begin moving into the courthouse this week, and the first day of court will be June 20.