Judge Nelson Meets with Architects, Attorneys
Friday afternoon, Mississippi County Judge John Alan Nelson held a joint meeting at the Mississippi County Annex Building with elected officials, attorneys and judges to discuss the courthouse move to Arkansas Northeastern College-Burdette, along with additions to the current plans for the courthouse.
Historical architect Aaron Ruby of Revival Architect and Rob Seay of Cromwell Architects Engineer were present to answer questions.
Local attorney Bobby Coleman offered an idea to keep the county offices and court in Blytheville without having to go to ANC-Burdette. He also suggested having four courtrooms, two large jury rooms and two non-jury courtrooms in the new courthouse.
Coleman said an issue in the Second Judicial District is there aren't enough courtrooms for juries in the district, noting in his 30-plus years of practicing law there have been many times where they had a judge but no where to hold the court.
"I think it is important that we have a courthouse that will accommodate our current needs and future needs," Coleman explained.
Coleman pointed out that some say with the county's drop in population the last few decades, that the size of the current courthouse should work today, but he said with everyone needing their day in court there must be space for trials.
He added that requires having courtrooms available.
"It's for the safety of the public, not only for the convince of the lawyers. We just represent people that have legal problems," Coleman said. " The real people that need this are the citizens of Mississippi County, not the lawyers. We are going to get by."
Coleman also suggested building another building on the side to move into during the renovations to keep everybody close. Instead of building on the side where the parking lot, build by the railroad tracks, he said. Coleman added that the monuments for Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Edgar Lloyd and a Confederate statue would need to be moved but Lloyd's grave wouldn't have to be. However, if needed it can be moved to another place, he said.
Coleman said a problem with moving the courthouse to Burdette is travel and where will they go for lunch during a jury trial.
Later in the meeting, Circuit Judge Ralph Wilson, Jr., stated that he believes Burdette is better because once construction starts it wouldn't be a good idea to have a trial going on next to a construction site, due to safety and noise.
Ruby agreed and also stated there would also be an extra cost if that were to take place.
Nelson added that he and elected officials don't necessarily want to conduct business out of Burdette, but if they wanted to be "good stewards" of the citizens' money that Burdette is the right move because it is free.
Ruby asked their definition of a small courtroom, and Coleman and Wilson both stated that the size of Annex Building room would roughly be the size.
Ruby also added that the new plan would have three courtrooms, two jury rooms on the third floor and the current non-jury courtroom on the second floor after removing the column, instead of two courtrooms.
Coleman stated he doesn't know where to squeeze it at but they need four courtrooms.
"In my view, courthouse needs courtrooms more than it needs administrative space," Coleman explained. "I'm not trying to step on anybody's toes in that regard, because I'm one that I wish everybody could have everything but when it comes down to if somebody has more elbow room in one of the non-court offices versus having somebody crawling in my house in the middle of the night because they didn't get a trial and had to be released for speedy trial... I want us to be able to make sure that the citizens of Mississippi County are safe that we have a speedy, fair administration of justice and that we got sufficient space to do that. If you can find a way to do that I am great. But I am just begging you to figure out away to squeeze two small courtrooms in there."
Ruby stated he understands and they are going to do the best they can.
County attorney Jeremy Thomas said the second floor courtroom, which is currently there, would be great if the column wasn't in there and it was a square room and not an L shaped room.
Deputy prosecuting attorney Curtis Walker stated that if a new building is built, use it for storage or for office space, so the courtroom could be built inside the courthouse.