It’s finally here — the big move.
In anticipation of the construction of its new building, the 40th District Court will close its doors Jan. 17 to move to a temporary location in a school building at Our Lady of Hope Church — St. Gertrude Campus, 28839 Jefferson Ave. The court will reopen in that location on Tuesday, Jan. 22, after a regularly scheduled closing for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“This is the perfect time to move,” said Carolyn Povich, court administrator. Nevertheless, she said, “this hasn’t been easy.”
Moving a court is much more than just relocating furniture, she said. The court has to coordinate with different agencies, including the state, and make sure that the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) is properly connected at the new building.
“You don’t just unplug it and plug it in,” she said. “We couldn’t operate without it.”
About 26 employees of the court will relocate to the new building, along with decades worth of files, Povich said.
“On the 16th, that is the last day of court to be held at the current 40th District building. When we close our doors at 4:30, we’re out of here,” she said.
Two courtrooms will be set up in the grade school of the Our Lady of Hope St. Gertrude campus, which is the northernmost building on the property. Court will be held on the second floor of the facility, but because there is no elevator, a “makeshift” courtroom will also be established on the first floor, in the event anyone is unable to make it to the second story.
Povich said the offices, clerical staff and cashier will all be on the main floor of the building, with the entrance at the south side.
“It’s actually a little bit bigger than we have now,” she said.
Community Development and Inspection Director Chris Rayes said the lease to the church will be paid out of the court building project. The fund will pay $5,000 a month, plus utilities for the building, to the church, with one year’s worth of rent guaranteed.
“It’ll be a fully operational court over there,” he said.
Very little construction will be needed, he explained, but prisoner holding areas will need to be built, as will some partition walls.
“Everything else, we’re going to be able to fit within the existing spaces,” he said. “It’s just a lot of moving pieces.”
Chief Judge Mark Fratarcangeli said he anticipated the first few weeks in the temporary location would involve some “controlled chaos.” He said those who use the court would be notified of its new location when they call and through notices sent by the court; its phone number will remain the same.
“I think it’s going to be business as usual, once people figure out where we are,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult for the staff for the time being, but I think, in the long run, we’re going to benefit from it.”
He said the biggest challenge was coordinating with the state to establish the Justice Information System — which is how records are filed with the state.
In addition, he said, they’re trying to make accommodations for the St. Clair Shores Police Department, which typically only has to walk prisoners across the street for arraignment.
“We’re working with a few options to try to work out video arraignments so the police department doesn’t have to transfer” the prisoners, he said. “Hopefully, if we have a temporary video arraignment system, we’ll alleviate that problem, as well.
“We’re going to try to make it as seamless as we possibly can.”
Out of the total $3.59 million cost of the court, the court building fund already has about $1.79 million saved. City Council authorized the publishing of its intent to issue bonds to pay for the remainder in December. With the necessary notices published, the bond sale is planned for sometime in February 2013.
The 40th District Court is available at (586) 445-5280.
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