Although it was relatively quiet at the Courthouse Annex this afternoon, that doesn’t mean the office has been slow since the old courthouse shut its doors.
“A little bit of it is backing up,” says Court Operations Director Steve Johnroe.
Johnroe brought in extra staff from the beaches office to help deal with the expected rise in business. While there is enough staff to keep the office running, they don’t have enough computers or the proper permanent filing system that will be used at the new courthouse location. Nevertheless the staff there, and in the other satellite offices at the beaches and the traffic bureau, have been working hard to make sure the legal filings are handled on time.
“Between those 3 offices we’ve been able to keep a pretty good pace.”
While all of the furniture and important files have been moved to the new Duval County Courthouse on W Adams Street, Johnroe says the staff has not yet been able to settle in to the location- everything is still boxed up. In addition to settling in, he is facing 600 jurors planning to arrive at the courthouse on Monday, but he still isn’t sure if the facility will be open yet.
“We were hoping it was only gunna be last week and now we’ve got another week going and I hope it’s not any longer than this,” he says.
Whether the facility will open next week largely depend on the results of fire safety systems testing. Mayor’s Office Spokesman David DeCamp says the changes required to bring the courthouse up to code have been approved by both the Fire Marshall and a third party engineer, which Fire Chief Martin Senterfitt told us last week was one of the more time consuming steps. He says the contractor conducted testing today, but the formal testing will take place tomorrow.
In case we continue to see delays, the Mayor’s Office outlined a number of alternatives for resuming court operations. The first option offered was moving back to the old location on Bay Street, but Johnroe says this really is no option at all.
“It’s dirty, it’s rat infested, it’s not inhabitable,” he says.
If it were up to him, Johnroe says he would just keep the Annex location running.
And based on the job they have done so far, some Jacksonville residents wouldn’t mind that either. Shambra Jackson was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly her business was taken care of.
“I walked in here like 4 minutes ago and as soon as I got here I got my printout,” she says.
Others were unaware the Annex location was up and running. I met Minh Nguyen at the doorstep of the old courthouse. She was hoping to file a deed today, but was unaware the building was closed.
“I didn’t check the city website or didn’t call or anything because I guess I thought there was no need to,” she says.
Nguyen says she has driven past the new location, and will take her filing there when it opens up.