As of Monday, Franklin County no longer has a courthouse. It officially opens its swanky, new judicial center.
The justice system in the county has been temporarily located in west Frankfort for the past several years while the old courthouse was refurbished and used as a starting point for the new, expanded facility.
Like the residents of many other county seats throughout Kentucky, we can question whether the money should have been spent during a time when budgets are tight and grandiose projects are closely scrutinized.
But we’re beyond that point now. The $30 million has been spent.
The plans for the new judicial center were authorized in 2006 and funding was approved two years later. In March 2010, courthouse employees moved to a building on Chamberlin Avenue the county leased from local developer C. Michael Davenport.
Last week, after being in a temporary facility for roughly 45 months, employees packed up and moved back downtown. The new offices open at 8 a.m. Monday.
Those who must appear in District or Circuit Court, pay a fine or renew their driver’s license will now do so in the Franklin County Judicial Center.
The County Clerk and Fiscal Court never moved, having remained in the courthouse annex. Those needing to renew tags for cars, boats, get marriage licenses, etc., or needing to register to vote, will still do so at the same County Clerk’s office location.
Several other things are not changing, one temporary, the other permanent.
The temporary is the location of the Sheriff’s Office. For now, it remains on Chamberlin Avenue. The search for a new location continues.
The permanent is the lack of parking spaces downtown for those visiting the judicial center. There are the spots on the street and the Sullivan Parking Garage, same as always.
Most members of the legal community have their offices downtown and were used to walking to the courthouse. We are sure they are thrilled the new judicial center has finally been completed.
We imagine the owners of downtown businesses have mixed views — they are pleased by most anything that brings people downtown, but they may see their customers struggle to find parking spots.
Courthouses — we are going to have a hard time learning to call it a Judicial Center — are the focal point of downtowns, especially in small cities.
Though this may not be as much the case in Frankfort, because we have the Old Capitol and numerous other historic buildings, we are anxious to tour the judicial center, view the courtrooms and offices and see how the old and new were blended together.
Downtown is where the building belongs, and we’re pleased it is back.