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June 26, 2014

Hamilton commissioners mull relocation

Jasper — Resident George Roberson made a suggestion to the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners at their June 17 meeting that they consider relocating commission chambers to a more suitable location that has room for larger crowds. The board agreed to look into it.

Roberson, who is a regular attendee at the county commission meetings, said he has been thinking about the matter for a long time. Current commission chambers are in a room in the county courthouse adjacent to the courtroom.

“You guys are crammed into this little room here that does not look professional at all,” said Roberson.

He suggested the commission chambers are more suitable for an office rather than a meeting room because of its small size. There are four rows of hard wooden pews, as well as another one that sits perpendicular for audience members to sit, and many have complained they are extremely uncomfortable. When there are certain items on the agenda that draw a large crowd due to the subject matter, the overflow of people have to stand huddled in the doorway or spilled out into the hallway. Complaints about the outside hallway speakers have been numerous over the years, as well, and many have said they cannot hear the proceedings going on inside the chamber.

“For your meetings...for people to be waiting out in the hall...to come into something like this is ridiculous,” Roberson continued. “Before we give all of our rooms away or let other people use them, I think you should consider having you another meeting place, whether it’s here or where, it don’t matter to me. I just see the situation as it is, okay?”

Roberson said he wasn’t criticizing anyone, but he said the lawyers (referring to co-counsel Cliff Adams) don’t have a decent place to sit. Adams sits on the front row pew in the audience and usually has his laptop computer with him. The U-shaped desk where the commissioners sit is cramped and there isn’t much room to maneuver, especially if one of them needs to leave the room for any reason.

“We have people coming in and they don’t have anywhere to sit,” Roberson said. “It’s ridiculous. You should be looking for a place to hold a meeting in a different environment than what you have here. I wouldn’t even complain about you spending a little money on it,” he added with a chuckle.

Commissioner Beth Burnam said she agreed with what Roberson said about the lack of seating space for audience members.

“When we think about it, that’s a good problem for us to have because it shows that people are interested and we’re getting more community involvement,” Burnam said, which confused Roberson, so she clarified. “It’s a good thing that we have so many people coming a lot of the time that we may need to look for a bigger facility.”

Commissioner Randy Ogburn said he was interested in seeing if there is room at the courthouse annex that they might be able to utilize. He asked County Clerk Greg Godwin and County Coordinator Louie Goodin if they would check it out. He also said if they decided to relocate, it would free up the room for the court system to use more often than they do already.

All the board members were in agreement.

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