The Charlotte County Justice Center soon will undergo remodeling — at a cost much less than first proposed and with more than a little compromise as its foundation. Gone is the $36 million expansion project that included an addition to the existing building. In its place is a $16.8 million rearrangement of the furniture that should meet the demands made of the building through 2025.
The particulars of the remodeling were laid out in a Sun article published April 27, so there's no need to repeat them here. But there is reason to give a tip of the cap to all those who found ways to get'er done, even if it meant giving something up. Wait, you say! There is no good reason to praise people for doing the right thing — in this case, saving the public's money. But there is. This was accomplished because those who work in the building put their wants aside and addressed needs instead. It was accomplished at a time when special interests dominate the government conversation. And it was accomplished at a time when doing the right thing — even on a local government level — is not a given. And of all the entities that sacrificed for the greater good, the Clerk of Courts perhaps gave up the most, especially in terms of office space. The Clerk of Courts' contribution to the bigger picture was acknowledged by Charlotte County Commissioner Chris Constance.
“I don’t think that enough focus has been placed on (Clerk of Courts) Roger Eaton, the fact that he has given up space to make this happen," Constance said." I think that his coordination with Jon Embury and the judicial staff has been excellent, and this is great work product because we’re saving Charlotte County taxpayers a great deal of money by not building, what turned out to be kind of a monstrosity. I mean, it really was much more than we needed at the time.” Eaton said he has been working with Embury, in charge of judicial staff, and Judge Paul Alessandroni for the last year and a half.
“We depend on one another,” Eaton said. "This is the culmination of the past year, year and a half, of looking at what’s best for all concerned. By moving records off-site and by digitizing as many as possible, we wouldn’t have the need for space. That was abundantly clear." The key, Eaton said, was not only moving existing paper records, but also making them disappear through digitizing as many records as possible, a program begun by Eaton's predecessor, longtime Clerk Barbara Scott. "We’ve gone from 14,000 boxes to 5,000, 6,000 boxes," Eaton said.
"We’re the keeper of the records," Eaton said. "We embrace the move to the electronic age." The goal, he said, is to go paperless. “We don’t have the need (for space),” he said. “The others do. It was smart to give up the space we have. This is definitely a positive.”