Court clerk's computer online following ceiling collapse

Friday, August 11, 2006

The computer system of the Cape Girardeau County circuit clerk was back online Thursday following a partial ceiling collapse in the county courthouse in Jackson.

A technician from the Missouri Office of State Court Administrator worked Thursday setting up a computer system for the court clerk's office, which came online around 1 p.m., according to Circuit Clerk Charles Hutson.

The system shut down when plaster fell through a drop ceiling above the offices of the associate circuit court clerks on the second floor Tuesday night. When the plaster fell, it disrupted computer lines, affecting both the circuit and associate circuit division, Hutson said.

Now with the computers back up and running, Hutson's office can issue bond refunds and receipts for court fine and fee payments, something that was not possible Wednesday.

An architect inspected the damage Wednesday and determined the cause of the fall was likely fatigue, county Commissioner Jay Purcell said.

During Thursday's regular commission meeting, Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones said he wanted a structural engineer to look at the building and provide recommendations.

Purcell said he "fully expects" the plaster in the rest of the second floor to come down.

"The most cost-effective way is to remove it altogether," he said.

A decision on what to be done could be made as early as today or Monday, according to Purcell.

In the meantime, clerks for Associate Circuit Judge Gary Kamp relocated their offices to a basement courtroom.

The judge's courtroom, about 20 feet from the collapse, stored some office equipment Wednesday, most of which was relocated down to the basement by Thursday night, Circuit Judge Benjamin Lewis said.

Today, Kamp will hold his court call in the Division I courtroom across the hall, according to Lewis. By Monday, Kamp's docket will be held in his courtroom as normal.

For the rest of next week, Kamp and the two judges who use the basement courtroom will be out due to training or vacation. After next week, the judges will work together to juggle the free courtrooms for their hearings, Lewis said, adding it was possible some hearings may be held at the Common Pleas Courthouse in Cape Girardeau.

In all, a printer and three monitors were the only equipment damaged from the collapse, according to Lewis.

"It's not as bad as we thought it was going to be," he said.

Southeast Missourian writer Jennifer Freeze contributed to this report.

335-6611, extension 127

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