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County attorney's office may relocate

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Administrative Office of the Courts will make final decision

By Calen McKinney

 

Those who want to report a crime could soon have to go to another office.

The Taylor County Attorney’s office, housed in the Bertram, Cox & Miller law firm building on Main Street, could soon move.

But even though magistrates have given their blessing to the move, Administrative Office of the Courts staff members have said they might not.

Magistrates discussed the move at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8.

County Attorney John Bertram said he asked if any space is available at the Taylor County Courthouse.

Until now, he said, whoever has served as county attorney has voluntarily used their private office for both purposes. And until now, he said, that has been convenient.

However, he said, traffic has increased at the office and outgrown his private office. There used be one or two people coming in a day to make complaints. Now, there could be as many as 20.

Bertram said he wants to ensure that those who need services from him and his staff members have the space to do that. Bertram said Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers suggested there might be room at the courthouse for an office. Having the office near the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office would be a benefit, Bertram said, especially when those  who make complaints become unruly.

Rogers said he is fine with having the county attorney’s office in the basement of the courthouse, as long as state officials approve that.

Bertram said the office doesn’t have the money to pay rent and current costs have been absorbed by his private practice. He said the office Rogers had in mind would need some improvements, such as carpet and a phone line.

The office, which was formally used as an inmate holdover, would provide a good space for workers to store paperwork, Bertram said.

Taylor County Sheriff Allen Newton said staff members could use some of his office space to meet with the victims of crimes and take complaints.

Magistrates gave their OK to the move and approved up to $10,000 to be spent for renovations of the office.

Bertram said he anticipates two staff members to move the office, including Court Administrator Barbara Hilton and Victim’s Advocate Andrea Underwood. He said the two frequently meet with the public and are involved with court proceedings.

Bertram said he will remain at his law firm office, though he is available to meet with victims, witnesses and officers.

“My public role as legal advisor to the county, interaction with the county judge, magistrates or the public will not be impacted in any facet whatsoever.”

The move, he said, will help keep Hilton and Underwood in a safe environment and allow them to be more efficient.

“We believe a closer proximity to the sheriff’s office in the county courthouse or within the judicial center will fulfill these objectives,” he said.

“In addition, either of these settings would be of no or little cost to the public since we would be attempting to utilize empty/available workspace.”

Bertram said he believes the move will enhance his staff’s ability to serve the public.

On Tuesday, Bertram said the move might not happen just yet. He said there was talk of the office moving to the Taylor County Judicial Center, though the AOC might not approve that.

Rogers said Wednesday morning that the move has been put on hold until word is received from state officials.

Garbage Rates

Those who have garbage collection service with Waste Connections Inc. will soon see an increase in their bill.

Rogers said the increase falls within the company’s contract with the county and equates to a 2.1 percent increase.

The cost for customers is now $47.73 for three months of service. Seniors and those who qualify as low income will pay $44.46, and those who are seniors and handicapped will pay $29.43.

Rogers said the county also recently got word that Comcast rates have increased.

Also at the Meeting:

• Rogers said the recent free adoption days at the Taylor County Animal Shelter went well and the county is considering having them next year. He said about 60 animals are adopted each month. About 80 were adopted during the holidays.

• Nearly $1.5 million has been collected in occupational taxes this fiscal year. After refunds and expenses, the net amount collected totals $1,487,562.18.

• As of Dec. 31, the county's general fund had a balance of $1,586,603.39. The road fund stood at $535,532.87 and the jail fund at $817,075.70.