HARRODSBURG — Local and state officials dedicated the $12 million Mercer County Judicial Center in a packed courtroom on Monday.
Originally, officials had hoped to celebrate the new judicial center outdoors, but the rain led Mercer Judge-Executive Milward Dedman to move the ceremony indoors.
State Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, recalled that the groundbreaking ceremony for the new judicial center was held on a rather cold day in 2009.
“Mercer County and Harrodsburg have such a great history and a long history,” Higdon said. “In 100 years, this will still be a great facility.”
To commemorate the area’s rich history, members of the James Harrod Trust decorated the second floor of the facility with historical artifacts. Some of the items include the bell, clock and some of the windows from the original Mercer courthouse.
“The exterior is beautiful, but the interior is even more impressive,” said Mercer Chief District Judge Jeff L. Dotson. “It is a pleasure and a pure honor to be a part of this.”
The new center opened in April at 224 S. Main St. in downtown Harrodsburg. It is the site of the former Mercer County Courthouse, which was torn down. The judicial center consists of about 39,160 square feet and includes space for circuit court, district court, offices and ancillary services.
Several speakers, including Dedman and Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., discussed the aim to greatly enhance the delivery of court services with the latest computer, video and networking technology.
The center, designed to meet standards required by the Administrative Office of Courts, also provides a higher level of court security. Members of the general public must use a single-point entry system equipped with magnetometers and security personnel in order to gain access. In addition, prisoners will be segregated from the public by separate entrances and corridors.
“In the end, I think we did a good job,” Dedman said.
State Rep. Kim King, R-Harrodsburg, expressed thanks to the “hardworking” taxpayers of Mercer County.
“Without them, none of this would be possible,” King said.
Minton said some people might question the wisdom of building judicial centers during the “great recession” especially since due to budget problems all state court employees will be furloughed for three days this year. However, the economic downturn actually lowered construction costs; the project also provided jobs to help stimulate the economy, Minton said.
“I think people will see a renewed interest in the vitality of downtown Harrodsburg due to the government’s investment into the heart of the community,” Minton said.