By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
Discussion over future use of the courthouse dominated much of the regular session of the Curry County Commission Tuesday.
Sheriff Matt Murray and District Judge Ted Hartley stumped for their respective departments on how to utilize a recent $300,000 grant from the state Legislature.
When the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s office moved to the post office building, the third floor of the courthouse came open for other use.
“The sheriff’s department, since 1992, has doubled in size. As far as I can remember, back in 1977, it’s always been in the basement,” Murray said. “We’re just running out of space down there. We have evidence and no place to put it; I’ve got three investigators in one office.”
“The only thing I have with the sheriff is the lateness of the request,” Hartley said later. “He needs the space. We’ll work together, but I don’t want to be displaced.”
Hartley and other district judges’ staffs have already moved into the third floor. With Judge Joe Parker scheduled to be based out of Portales by May 11, along with Judge Robert Orlik’s courtroom now located in the nearby law library building, Hartley thinks the current accomodations will suffice for the next five years for the four district judges remaining in Clovis.
“It’s traditionally been the most understaffed district in the state and we want to change that,” said Hartley, who urged for planning beyond five years.
Murray and county manager Dick Smith both opined that having the sheriff’s department in the building would be the ideal way to provide security for the courts, but Murray also didn’t rule out the possibility of moving his department away from the courthouse — something his predecessor, Roger Hatcher, was in favor of doing.
“If the $300,000 will give us a used site off-court, with a parking lot, I’m all for it,” Murray said.
Smith, though, said that language in the legislature’s grant was strictly for a “criminal justice complex” and that three previous inquiries on possibilities to utilize the funds were turned down. After the meeting, Smith also said that the language might not be an insurmountable obstacle if the county asked to use the money to move either the sheriff’s department or other county departments out of the courthouse.
In other business, commissioners:
—Discussed the viability of establishing a county ordinance — in addition to existing state law — to prohibit illegal dumping of tires and/or dead animals
—Approved a budget request from RSVP/Foster Grandparent program director Lucy Bonney
—Set stall rental fees at the fairgrounds for $10/day.