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Commissioners hold off expenses of family, drug courts request

January 11, 2019

HUNTINGTON - Cabell County commissioners on Thursday tabled a request by the landlords of the county’s Family Court, Adult Drug Court and Juvenile Drug Court to help pay for some of the expenses in the building.

It was the first commission meeting with Commissioner Kelli Sobonya, who was elected in November and sworn in at the end of December. Commissioners also agreed to name Nancy Cartmill as the commission president and Jim Morgan as commission president pro tempore for 2019.

In early 2017, commissioners agreed to move the family court and drug courts out of the Cabell County Courthouse and into the second and third floors of the building at 746 4th Ave., which is owned by Davis and Dixon LLC.

Landlords Paul Davis and Shawn Dixon told commissioners they are operating the building at a financial loss, even though the rent is being covered by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, which reimburses the county.

The state Supreme Court pays $11 a square foot for the building, which averages about $10,000 a month in rent. Davis and Dixon said it costs approximately $17,000 a month to operate the building, after utilities and taxes, meaning they have to cover $7,000 out of their own pockets.

They have since asked the Supreme Court to consider paying $12 a square foot, leaving the state to pay approximately $12,500 every month.

Dixon and Davis asked commissioners to help cover a third of the expenses not covered by the Supreme Court, while they would continue to pay for the remainder. The county sheriff already provides security for the building.

“We want to make it so, really and truly, it doesn’t go bankrupt,” Davis said. “I mean, that’s just where we are. We absolutely don’t want to start showing the floors to some other firms and you guys have to start looking for someplace else for family court.”

Davis said part of the proposal given to the Supreme Court would give them access to the building’s first floor vestibule area, which would staff a security guard to screen people coming into the front door. This means the Supreme Court would pay for that square footage as well, he said.

Cabell Family Court Judge Patricia Keller said the Supreme Court was concerned with security in the building because people are only screened when they enter the second floor and sometimes no one is available to escort them to the third floor, which is locked.

Cartmill said the problem is the county does not have extra money to help cover expenses.

“We just haven’t figured out how to manufacture money,” Cartmill said. “We know it’s needed, but we are broke and that lease was with the Supreme Court. We did agree to do certain things. We did agree to provide security, which is costly to us.”

Sheriff Chuck Zerkle said he is unsure how he could provide more security guards to the building because he already had to pull deputies off the roads to be bailiffs there. His office is operating on a reduced budget, he said.

Commissioners agreed to table the request under advisement, meaning they need to consult with experts and lawyers before making a decision. The state Supreme Court of Appeals will hold a conference Monday, Jan. 14, to discuss the matter.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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