Catwalk is scrapped; commission moves forward with 'Plan B'

Liz Beavers
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Mineral County Courthouse

KEYSER - The proposed catwalk at the courthouse has been scrapped.

With the Keyser City Council holding firm to their denial of the Mineral County Commission’s request for a right-of-way that would have enabled them to link the current courthouse and the judicial annex with a catwalk over West Street, the commissioners confirmed Tuesday that they are moving forward with an alternate design.

The catwalk was to have been part of a multi-million-dollar renovation and upgrade to the courthouse and judicial annex which would have enabled employees and visitors to access the annex from the courthouse by way of the catwalk.

The original design called for an elevator tower to have been constructed  on the west side of the courthouse, in the vicinity of the current exit from the sheriff’s tax office, and a second tower to have been constructed on the north end of the judicial annex.

The main entrance to the courthouse complex would have been in the courthouse side tower, and those wishing to access the offices to be constructed on the second floor of the annex could go up the elevator and over the catwalk.

When the commissioners asked the Keyser City Council for an easement so they could build the catwalk, however, mayor Damon Tillman told them after a brief executive session that it was the city’s decision to deny the request.

Instead, they offered for the county the chance to purchase the street.

County administrator Luke McKenzie, however, told the officials the commissioners were not interested in purchasing West Street.

Since those meetings, the commissioners went back to the drawing board with their courthouse renovation plans and have come up with an alternative which would include an elevator tower at the courthouse and one at the annex, but no catwalk in between.

“There will be two separate entrances and if you have business in both buildings, then yes, you will have to cross the street,” commissioner Jerry Whisner said.

Plans for reorganizing the offices within the courthouse will remain basically the same.

“It’s going to be basically all court system over here,” McKenzie said of the courthouse. “The prosecutor will be on the third floor, judge on the second floor as well as the circuit clerk, and downstairs will be probation and the second judge’s suite.”

The county clerk’s office, commission office and sheriff’s tax office will be relocated to the top floor of the annex.

McKenzie said most people who have business in the court system would not need to access the judicial annex, and vice versa.

In a related matter, McKenzie announced that the county had solicited bids for an architect for the renovation project, and after interviewing the two candidates had selected Tom Pritts of Montum Architecture of Keyser. Pritts has already been working with the county on the proposed plans and was also previously selected as the architect for the project to expand the former detention center with a second floor.

McKenzie also said the county needs to have an accountant firm and an attorney to work with the financials associated with the project, and Huber Michaels and attorney John Athey, respectively, were approved by unanimous vote on Tuesday.

Liz Beavers is a veteran writer and managing editor of the Mineral Daily News Tribune. You can check out her bio and more of her work at https://www.newstribune.info/staff/6477370002/liz-beavers/. To reach out to her with a story idea, email lbeavers@newstribune.info.