(Oak Ridge Today) With no other alternative lined up yet, the Anderson County Commission on Thursday agreed to an 18-month lease for the Anderson County General Sessions Court in Oak Ridge. That will keep the courthouse at its current home until mid-2017, giving county officials time to consider where to locate the General Sessions Court, Division II.
The current seven-year lease expires at the end of the year, and officials have been trying to determine since October whether to keep the courthouse where it is now, find a new location in Oak Ridge, or move the Division II court to Clinton, where Division I is located.
County commissioners approved the 18-month lease at a rate of $5,500 per month during a Thursday evening meeting. The lease, which was approved 12-2, will not include a warehouse building used by the county at the courthouse site on Bus Terminal Road.
Under the lease expiring at the end of the year, the county had been paying $5,000 per month, plus reimbursement costs for renovations at the 5,000-square-foot courthouse. Tony Cappiello, president of Vintage Development, which owns the building, said there was $285,000 worth of renovations completed at the site, and the county reimbursed $185,000 over seven years.
To help with the lease extension, the City of Oak Ridge has offered, subject to City Council approval, a $25,000 payment in the city budget that starts July 1, 2016.
As courthouse options are considered, the city has also offered the former Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic building on Badger Road. The county could lease that building, which once housed the Oak Ridge Civic Music Association, for $1 per year, City Manager Mark Watson said. The county would be responsible for renovation costs.
The city expects the county to make a decision on a permanent home for General Sessions Court, Division II, by March 2016, so Oak Ridge can plan its budgets and facility uses, Watson said.
Anderson County Commissioner Myron Iwanski helped negotiate the monthly rate in the 18-month lease from $6,200 down to $5,500 per month on Thursday.
Commissioners Zach Bates and Jerry White cast the only “no” votes against the 18-month lease. Commissioners Chuck Fritts and Tracy Wandell were absent. All other commissioners voted “yes.”
Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank has said that the county has been paying $84,000 per year to lease the Bus Terminal Road building, and there are other costs associated with maintaining it. The county pays insurance, property tax, and maintenance, and provides the cleaning service and life safety inspections, Frank said. If something leaks or breaks, the county has to repair it, she said.
For 14 years, the Division II Court was located at the Oak Ridge Municipal Building. But in the late 2000s, the court began experiencing overcrowding and security problems, and the Anderson County Commission negotiated a lease at the former ORUD building, rather than moving the court to Clinton.
The new courthouse on Bus Terminal Road opened January 14, 2009. For more, visit our partners at www.oakridgetoday.com.