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Clerk of Courts’ decades long battle for more space continues

A “disappointed and discouraged” Grady County Clerk of Courts appeared before the Grady County Commission Tuesday night requesting additional space for her office, a request she has made for the last decade.
Debbie Kines, clerk of superior, state and juvenile courts, told county commissioners this week that Senate Bill 407 had been by passed by the Georgia General Assembly this year and signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal. Effective Jan. 1, 2019, a computer terminal and scanner accessible by the public must be made available for mandated electronic filing of civil actions.
According to the clerk, she began no later than August of this year talking with the former county clerk Carrie Croy to identify a suitable location for the new terminal to be set up and under the supervision of the clerk of courts’ office.
A variety of options ranging from the relocation of the drug court coordinator, use of space used by the elections superintendent, to using an office formerly reserved for State Court Judge Joshua C. Bell were all nixed, according to Clerk Kines.
The clerk has long favored expanding her office into a room north of her office that is utilized as a storage room, but the commissioners have declined to budget for the remodeling project over the years.
The clerk of courts said a suggestion to place it in the hallway of the courthouse was not feasible and she said another suggestion to place it inside her deed vault was also not ideal.
“I don’t know where else to turn,” Kines said. She called for a spirit of cooperation between employees, constitutional officers, department heads and the board of commissioners.
The new terminal has temporarily been set up inside the deed vault, but Kines pointed out that evidence in criminal cases is also stored in that vault and she has no way of keeping it separate from people coming in and out of the vault to conduct business.
Commissioner June Knight asked Mrs. Kines if the new equipment was something her staff would have to teach the public how to use. “Naturally, if a member of the public needs assistance we will offer to help,” the clerk said.
Grady County Administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, said at this time considering the budget constraints of the county he could not recommend the expansion and remodeling of the clerk’s office to expand into the storage room.
“We, nor Mrs. Kines, know the amount of people who will use this terminal. It will likely be very few. If it becomes an issue, by all means we will look at our options then,” Johnson said.
Commission Chairman Ray Prince suggested the clerk consider leaving the equipment temporarily in the vault and monitor the use. “It may sit there and collect dust. If not, we can cross that bridge when we come to it,” the commission chairman said.
The clerk noted that every office on the first floor had been provided additional office space since county offices moved into the new courthouse in 1985.
“I know you have been asking for additional space since I came on the board, but a lot of people are asking and we just don’t have it to give,” Commissioner LaFaye Copeland said.
“Everyone on the first floor has gotten it except my office,” the clerk responded.
Commissioner Knight suggested the board look at the possibility and cost of allowing the clerk to expand into the storage room. “If it’s just storage in there it can be put somewhere else,” Commissioner Knight said.
Chairman Prince suggested a wait and see approach and offered his prediction that very few people would be using the terminal.
“You are asking me to put something else in an already crowded office,” the clerk said.
Commissioner Copeland expressed support for Commissioner Knight’s suggestion to look at allowing the clerk to use the storage room. The clerk of court suggested the board obtain actual cost estimates for the project rather than bantering about estimates.

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