Clarion County courtroom gets a new look

Improvements to Courtroom No. 1 in the Clarion County Courthouse are almost complete.

The century-old courtroom had suffered from antiquated ceiling lights, old and noisy visitors benches and seats in the jury box that made any proceeding a trial for jurors.

But that has all changed.

“It has only been about two weeks since the jury box and witness stand were completely finished,” Clarion County Judge Sara Seidle-Patton said. “We have had two jury trials since then using the new jury box and the new chairs seem to be comfortable.”

The new visitors benches are another welcome improvement.

“I must say it is very nice that the benches don’t make the loud, creaking noise the old ones did,” Seidle-Patton said. “The owner of Michelle’s Café bought one of the old ones at the county sale and she put it in there. I sat on it and it still creaks,” she added.

The old benches, jury chairs and other items were sold at a surplus sale last month.

The new railing separating the visitors benches and the area for attorneys follows an earlier design.

When the old carpet was removed, it was discovered there had been a railing that crossed the entire courtroom. The old design was restored and gates were installed to control foot traffic from the visitors benches to the judge’s bench.

Courtroom No. 1 was closed for most of August while extensive remodeling, including painting and the installation of new carpeting, was completed.

Rea Jobber installed more than 300 square yards of carpeting. The cost of the carpet was $11,197.

Gravatt Painting and Services completed the painting of the courtroom at a cost of $7,850. The walls in Courtroom No. 1 have been painted a lighter shade and new LED lights have been installed.

The technical part of the courtroom also received an upgrade. New data lines and electric lines and a large, wall-mounted monitor were installed.

“We are still going to upgrade the sound system. That is still in the works,” Seidle-Patton said.

Funding for the project was a joint effort.

“Our Criminal Justice Advisory Board applied for a COVOD grant and got money for the jury box and witness stand,” the judge said.

The rest of it was paid for with court funds through the county’s probation department and with county funds.

“We wanted to stay with the traditional courtroom feel but modernize it and make it more user friendly,” Seidle-Patton said. “I think we did that.”