Government assessing need for further work on historic courthouse
Those who frequent provincial court in Harbour Grace will soon have the option to briefly step out for some Chinese food if they like with relative ease.
© Photo by Andrew Robinson/The Compass
The courthouse in Harbour Grace will hear no cases from Nov. 10-21 due to the need for some immediate repairs to its foundation. Matters scheduled for those dates will move to the conference room at Fong's Restaurant and Motel.
Due to some upcoming repair work, all court matters scheduled for Nov. 10-21 will move to the conference room at Fong's Restaurant and Motel in Carbonear.
The repairs, valued at approximately $150,000, will aid the courthouse's structural integrity. The province is still assessing the need for further repairs after the winter - work that will likely shutdown the courthouse for several months.
Setting up a courtroom in such a setting is nothing new in this province. According to Shelley Organ, director of court services for provincial courts in Newfoundland and Labrador, circuit court in rural areas often takes place in local hotels.
"We have some that are held in bars - but you know, the bar is not open obviously," Organ said with a hint of humour.
Special security measures will be taken for the purpose of using the conference room, and additional rooms in the building will be used for lawyers needing to meet colleagues or clients in private.
Organ first learned of the need for immediate repairs at the courthouse three weeks ago.
"This one, because it came up and was rather sudden and because they wanted to get the work done before the winter sets in, we didn't have a lot of time and we have a full docket, so we couldn't really say, 'OK, we're not going to have any court.' We're just going to take our courtroom and move it."
The courthouse will not be closing altogether. The registry office for filing documents and obtaining court records will remain open.
Built in 1830, the Harbour Grace courthouse is the oldest public building in the province. Transportation and Works Minister David Brazil told The Compass his department is looking to develop an action plan over the next year for whatever work needs to happen on a long-term basis.
"There's no doubt additional things that will have to be done to make the building more aesthetically attractive, but particularly around safety for staff and for people who use the facilities there."
According to Organ, the court will need find a space other than Fong's to use in that scenario, given the job would likely take months to complete. An appropriate site has not been identified as of now, she said.
"We'd find a place where we could set it up with a registry and courtroom."
Brazil notes any long-term plan for the courthouse will need to consider cost. Asked hypothetically whether a high cost for the work could convince the province to find a new permanent location for provincial court in a more modern building, Brazil reiterated the fact all future work will be dependent on what the action plan dictates.
"That'll be a bigger piece of work. We'll include municipalities. We'll include the justice department itself and public safety. We'll look at the needs and if there's an expanding need, what that precludes. But the first thing is to assess the building - to look at the integrity of the building itself and then attach a financial cost to it and then see how we move forward on that process."