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Morgan County Courthouse damaged, closed

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Morgan County Courthouse is closed today as a result of damage sustained by high winds from Tuesday's storm, and a courthouse disaster plan mandated by a new state rule has been kicked into gear for the first time.

North and west sides of the courthouse's roof were heavily damaged in the storm. One half of the roof has been blown completely off, including the tresses and some of the brick wall it was attached to, said Jeff Neal, director of Morgan County Emergency Management. Officials are awaiting an evaluation by engineers to determine the impact of the damage.

"There is a huge hole in the roof. We have things covered in the upstairs of the courthouse to minimize any damage. We are securing the courthouse, barricading it off, and there is no access at this time," he said.

As a result of the storm, the local court and state have turned to a disaster action plan mandated by a rule that went into effect Jan. 1, according to David Remondini, chief deputy director of the Indiana Supreme Court's Division of State Court Administration. The rule gained mention from Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard during his annual address two weeks ago, but Remondini said this is the first time the rule has been used since it is in the pilot-planning stages to help courts operate after disasters, such as tornadoes and floods. Ironically, Morgan Superior Judge Thomas Gray - who is now turning to this disaster plan - was on the committee that drafted the new rule, Remondini said.

"Court's been cancelled, some have to move to new locations, and special sessions will be scheduled for court hearings," he said.

Night court will be in Morgan County's administration building this evening, said Debbie Chatten, administrative assistant in the commissioner's office. Trials and hearings scheduled at the courthouse for Thursday and Friday are being postponed, and letters will be sent to those involved for more information. There is no word when offices and courts will reopen as officials are waiting for engineers to decide if the building is structurally sound, she said.

Chatten recommended those in the area listen to the local radio station, WCBK 102.3 FM, for more information. She said the radio station is working with the county to broadcast updated information about closings and relocations.
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