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Update: City Council Approves Charlottesville Courthouse Renovations

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Thousands of court case records kept in the basement of the Charlottesville Circuit Courthouse. Thousands of court case records kept in the basement of the Charlottesville Circuit Courthouse.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Major upgrades are on the horizon for Charlottesville’s Circuit Courthouse.

Monday night, City Council voted on a proposal to fund changes to the courthouse, which include adding an extra courtroom. With this approval, there's hope that cases will move faster through the circuit court.

Charlottesville’s Circuit Court Clerk Llezelle Dugger says the court system is backlogged on some cases by two or three years.

“Our day-to-day cases, bench trials, motions hearings, that kind of stuff, we can bring in a substitute judge and run two courtrooms at the same time,” Dugger said. “We know we will get into our backlog, I just don’t think it will be twice as fast.”

The proposed second courtroom is intended to be built in the basement of the courthouse, which is also where the court clerk’s offices and records are located.

Other changes in the renovation will make the building more secure. City Sheriff James Brown says windows will get ballistic protection along with more surveillance cameras. A proposed sally port would also make inmate transportation more secure.

“We really have to make sure that everyone is safe and so the more people we have, the more staff we have to have in order to make everybody safe,” Brown said.

On Monday night, City Council debated $857,000 for the project, but bids from April came in 22 percent higher than expected. The city hopes to spend no more than $4 million.

Dugger is also working to digitize the thousands of court case files that take of space in the courthouse. These files date all the way back to 1888.

“I look at it every day, and it’s overwhelming,” Dugger said. “As we get closer to when the renovations are going to be done, a lot of these older records, we’re going to pack them away.”

When construction starts on the project, court staff, the clerk’s office and the sheriff’s office will move operations into the Levy Opera House and to the adjacent Jessup Building, which is located a block away from where the circuit court is located.

According to Dugger, only time will tell if the upgrades will be enough.

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