Rhea County leaders advised to plan for courts needs

Rhea County leaders advised to plan for courts needs

June 14th, 2012 by Tom Davis in News

Rhea County Commissioner Ronnie Raper.

Rhea County Commissioner Ronnie Raper.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

DAYTON, Tenn. - Rhea County commissioners should plan to move all courts operations into a new justice center if they decide to build such a facility, the county clerk and master told them.

John Fine, who served as Circuit Court clerk before becoming clerk and master, this week gave commissioners an overview of the needs of the five courts that share facilities in the Rhea County Courthouse.

"I met with the sheriff and looked over the plans for a justice center," he said. "The plans I looked at do not allow the Chancery Court to move into the justice center if it is built. I think that would be a mistake."

Fine told commissioners "the primary issue is security. I've been a clerk almost 30 years. All the disturbances we have had have been over civil or domestic cases."

He said he has heard talk about expanding the Rhea Heritage and Scopes Trial Museum -- now located in the courthouse basement -- to the first floor. "I think it should be," he said. "The courthouse is known worldwide, and it should be preserved and used."

Commissioner Ronnie Raper asked him how much space he thought he would need for the courts, and he replied "at least double the size we have now."

Sheriff Mike Neal added he believes Chancery Court would require about 2,500 square feet, and Raper calculated that would add about $437,000 to the cost of the building.

Fine also brought up the issue of providing storage space in a new facility. Raper responded that "we looked at a lot of justice centers, but I don't think anybody looked at storage. Be sure to figure in storage. We don't want to move and not have storage space."

In other matters, Commissioner Ron Masterson asked the commission to write members of the election commission to ask that a precinct line be moved in the 1st District. He said about 10 families that live in Grandview are required by new precinct lines to vote in the St. Clair Precinct in the valley six or seven miles from their homes on Grandview Mountain.

Commissioners agreed to put the matter on the agenda for a vote at next Tuesday's regular meeting.

Tom Davis is based in Dayton. Contact him at tsdavis@volstate.net.