Justice center parking lot use discussed

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners had set aside 35 spaces in the new justice center parking for lease, but judicial officials told them Monday more parking in needed for jurors and the public.

The parking lot, which was constructed after the former magistrate court building was razed, is intended to serve the justice center, which now houses the law enforcement division of the sheriff’s department, holding center and magistrate court. The lot has 79 spaces. Thirteen of the spaces are assigned as employee parking and six are for hybrid vehicles, which was required as part of the stipulations to qualify the building for Leadership Energy and Environmental Design designation. Seven spaces are reserved for handicapped parking and the remaining 12 are for customer/public parking. The commissioners said parking was designated at the former law enforcement building for jury parking.

“I don’t understand why there is a problem when we actually have the most parking we’ve ever had,” Commissioner Steve Gainer said.

Wood Circuit Chief Judge J.D. Beane, who oversees the magistrate court; Prosecutor Jason Wharton; and Pauline Yearego, magistrate court clerk, told commissioners more public and juror parking is needed.

“There is additional juror parking over there behind the old law enforcement building,” Gainer said.

“It’s not an everyday problem, but the jurors need a place to park. Each court has their own trial dates, but there could be a minimum of 30 to 90 people called in at one time, that’s a lot of people looking for spaces,” Beane said. “I don’t know what to do to accommodate that.”

“There were only about 25 spaces before, there are 36 parking spaces there designated for jurors in the lot between both the judicial buildings, so it’s closer and overflow spaces are available behind that building,” Gainer said.

County officials said leases for the designated parking spaces are $50, but they have not started leasing them yet, although they have been contacted by individuals interested in renting the spaces.

Bane suggested installation of parking meters that could be covered for use by jurors on days when a jury is called. “Then you could collect the money on the days when no jurors are called,” Beane said.

“The problem is meters require more room and take up more space, require other curbing and there just is not enough room for that,” Gainer said.

“Maybe you could designate parking tickets for those spaces instead of a meter,” the judge suggested.

“I don’t remember discussion of this issue, or this being on one of your agendas so we could come in and address this issue,” Wharton said.

“We could move more of the employees to the Juliana Street bridge, but I don’t think they’d like that,” Gainer said.

“We’d just ask you hold off on making a final decision until you see all these jurors coming in at the same time,” Beane said.

Commissioner Blair Couch noted one possible solution might be demolition of the old holding center and putting more parking in at that location.

“Our options for that property have become fewer and fewer,” Couch said.

“In addition to jurors, there are police officers from other agencies, witnesses and others going to the magistrate court that need parking as well,” Wharton said.

“Juror parking is top priority, but the public needs to have a place to park also,” Yearego said.

Gainer noted the city lot behind the Farmers’ Market will be metered for public parking.

Couch said he would come down to the justice center today because several courts were calling in prospective jurors at that time, to see the situation.

The commissioners agreed to place the matter on their April 29 agenda for a possible decision.