Over 200 people, including several local and state dignitaries, were on hand Wednesday morning to dedicate the newest addition to downtown Williamsburg, the new Whitley County Judicial Center.
"We are gathered here today to formally dedicate this building," said Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Daniel J. Venters. "The word dedication itself is derived from Latin words, which mean to give something over to some purpose.
"We move formally today to give this building over to some purpose … the belief in liberty and equal justice under the law and our commitment to the rule of law. This is the place where justice will be done."
Whitley Circuit Clerk Gary Barton noted that Wednesday was a historic day in the history of Whitley County.
"This building will be here for the next 50, 75, 100 years. We don’t know how long it is going to last, but this is the day that people can remember being here for many years, the day that we dedicated the new Whitley County Judicial Center," Barton said.
Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White Jr. told the crowd that the facility was several years in the making.
"For years advocates in our community worked to try and get a new judicial facility for Whitley County," he said. "This court facility is something that each and every one of you has reason to be proud of both in the result and the process, which brought it about.
The Kentucky General Assembly authorized construction of the new Whitley County Judicial Center in 2006, and approved its funding two years later.
The judicial center consists of approximately 57,300 square feet, and includes space for circuit and district court, the office for the Circuit Court Clerk, and ancillary services.
"We have a great looking facility that fits the architecture of our town, and is on the original ground where Williamsburg was born almost 200 years ago," White added.
The facility is designed to enhance the delivery of court services, and is equipped with the latest computer, video and networking technology.
The new facility features a single-point entry, and visitors must pass through metal detectors and be cleared by court security personnel before entering the heart of the three-story structure.
In addition, prisoners are segregated from the public by separate entrances and corridors.
"This project is a testament to state and local governments combined effort to see justice for this area," White said. "This facility equips our legal system with the most modern security for our jurors, our judges, our court staff, our attorneys and our families.
"Safe and secure administration of justice is our primary duty as members of government. This project changed more than just our legal system. It changed our town."
The first floor of the new facility includes the circuit and district clerk’s office. District court is housed on the second floor, and circuit court is housed on the third floor.
"Since the early days of the commonwealth, Kentucky courthouses have held a special place as the center of our communities," Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. said in a press release. Minton couldn’t be present for the dedication ceremony.
"The Whitley County Judicial Center will provide an efficient facility where citizens can carry out court business and seek access to justice. I appreciate the county leaders and state legislators, who joined the judicial branch in making this project a reality."
White added that the $17 million facility was completed more than $1.5 million under the original projected cost, and was finished within a couple of months of the projected completion date five years ago.
Much of the building was built with local products. The brick came from General Brick and Shale, a local company that has been struggling through the economy.
A company from southern Laurel County installed the woodwork, and employed people from Whitley County. It used white oak lumber from the region.