Judges Go to Jail as Hall County Looks for Court Space - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

Judges Go to Jail as Hall County Looks for Court Space

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Judge Teresa Luther has put many behind bars, but never a colleague. And even this is in jest, as four judges toured the old Hall County Jail to get a picture not of what was, but what could be.

And what the old Public Safety Center could be, is a solution to Hall County's space crunch.

Building and Grounds Director Loren Humphrey said, "Lots of needs coming up in the county as the county has grown and right now a lot of it is judicial."

And as Humphrey explains, square footage is at a premium. And here's an untapped space right next door to the courthouse. 

 "Someone needs to look at the campus as a judicial campus," he said. "It's awesome because you've got everything right here."

The courthouse itself needs repairs to deal with rusty pipes and poor heating and air conditioning.

But the old jail has problems too. County Board Member Bob McFarland says narrow stairways are a prime example.

He said, "If we had two district courts going on at the same time we could have an excess of 250 people upstairs and there's no way to get them up and down."

McFarland says the second floor could be good office space someday, but not now, saying it would cost from a few hundred thousand dollars on up to deal with.
 
He said, "The county's pretty frugal. We don't have a lot of extra money. We're trying to do this project and get the biggest bang for our buck."

McFarland also worries if the building would meet the unique demands judges face.
 
"They're deciding life and death matters, have to record everything. They can't have noise in the background," he said.

Judges do have questions, especially about courts in separate buildings.
 
Judge Art Wetzel questioned, "Is there a way to connect the two?"

And while county officials feared snap judgment, the judges seemed to keep an open mind.
 
"I hope so, hope they think it through," Loren Humphrey said.

So what do the judges think? They say it's very preliminary and didn't want to comment at this point.

County leaders would like to meet with judges soon to talk about what's been described as a multimillion dollar dilemma, to address needs at the hundred year old courthouse.

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