Judge Chambers: Federal court will close

PARKERSBURG – Chief Judge Robert Chambers announced Monday officials are closing the federal courthouse at Fifth and Juliana streets effective Friday.

“The General Services Administration (GSA) has advised the court that it intends to close the building, which houses the United States District Court at 425 Juliana St. at Parkersburg. GSA has performed a closure study, finding that the building is in need of extensive repairs and alterations and that there is a large amount of vacancy with no serious potential for backfill,” Chambers said in Monday’s release. “GSA has also informed the court that the building’s main tenant, the United States Post Office, has signed a letter of intent to vacate effective August 2014.

“The court regrets the loss of its courtroom at Parkersburg, but it cannot justify the expense of approximately $1 million to $1.5 million to taxpayers for build-out costs of similar space in another location,” he said. “In addition to the day-to-day operational costs, the annual rent for the entire court space at Parkersburg is $132,888.48 for 11,917 square feet of space.”

Mayor Bob Newell said local officials have known about the closing for some time. The city was informed two years ago the local courthouse had been marked for closure.

“Two years ago they started looking at courtrooms they weren’t using anymore,” Newell said Monday. “This is not a surprise.”

Newell said he was given a heads-up by Chambers last week, and said he believes the closure only affects a clerk who works at that office.

“The bankruptcy judge already has been working out of the city courtroom,” Newell said, adding only a handful of civil cases have likely been heard at the federal courtroom in recent years.

Chambers said there has not been a full-time judge stationed at the courthouse since 1992. Chambers said the only employee still working out of the federal courthouse has announced her intent to retire.

Newell and a delegation from Wood County traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this month to speak to the area and state’s national representative. Newell said among the delegation’s requests was for federal officials to keep that building in use until a new use could be found.

“We weren’t including the court in that,” Newell said. “We were talking about the IRS and Social Security, which still have people working in the building.

Newell said ideally the building would go to a private business, which would bring tax dollars into the area while making use of the building. He said ideally it would be either some sort of shipping or distribution company to take advantage of the loading docks at the back of the building, or used as a small-business incubator.

The Parkersburg Division serves Wirt and Wood counties, which now will become part of the Charleston Division of the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. The last day for full business operations available to the public at the Parkersburg District Clerk’s Office is Friday. Effective Nov. 25 all concerns relating to the Parkersburg docket should be directed to Teresa L. Deppner, clerk, United States District Court, 2400 Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse, 300 Virginia St., East, Charleston, WV 25301, telephone 304-347-3000.