Ryan Middleton

Special to The Ely Times

During the city council meeting of Jan. 26, the City of Ely agreed to transfer its portion of the deed to the county in exchange for office and municipal court space. The new facility will be located at 1785 Great Basin Boulevard.

In referring to a U.S. Marshal report from Oct. 16, 2007, Mayor Melody VanCamp pointed out the security risks of the White Pine County Courthouse on Clark Street. Municipal court is currently being held at the police department on Great Basin Boulevard, but District Court and Justice Court trials are being held at the current courthouse amid security risks. Inmates from the prison are being transferred to this facility.

“The building is in such tough shape that it’s not worth the money in trying to make it safe to have prisoners there and bring them in… our courthouse isn’t secure enough to have the trials and arraignments,” VanCamp said.

She said it can handle Justice Court  [small-claims courts]. It can’t do the bigger trials. During the trials, if  prisoners need to use the restroom facilities they have to go down through the crowd.

“They can’t make it secure enough,” she said. “It’s too much hassle, too much trouble.”

Some city council members recently took a tour of the jail and saw that it needs rehabilitation and is not big enough.

“The prison’s been here for quite a while but that’s put a big stress on the courts too… there’s so many regulations for security that they can’t meet it at the county. That’s why they need a new place.”

She pointed out that the courthouse is in close proximity to the junior high, the library and the senior center.

In the beginning, when the county sought to secure a loan to build the new facility, misinformation got out and the City of Ely was not asked initially to transfer its share of the deed to White Pine County. In order for the county to get the loan it had to own all of the land.

At one time the justice complex was intended to be built next to the old courthouse, but then it was moved to Great Basin Boulevard next to the jail. That will allow jail inmates to transfer directly to the complex and for prison inmates to be transported without anyone knowing, securely. There will be a place to house the inmates during trial.

The city offered three conditions upon transferring their share of the deed to the county: office space, a judge’s chamber and either a stand-alone or a shared courtroom. She also said if the county does not break ground within five years then the land will revert back to the city.

No specifics have been discussed between the county and the city yet as to how much office space will be offered to the city. Once the county gets approval from the legislature then an ad hoc committee will be created to discuss the specifics.

Ryan Middleton is an Ely-based freelance writer. His blog is www.wiserhino.blogspot.com.