Chatham Co. judges say they don't have enough courtrooms - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Judges say they don't have enough courtrooms

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Tax money – it's always a fight for a slice of the pie.

That was clear at the Chatham County Commission's budget retreat Tuesday. And the county's judges don't think they're getting a fair slice. They say the courthouse is falling apart, and that the county hasn't made good on its promises.

"The courthouse is old and worn and tired and cramped and dingy and embarrassing," Chief Superior Court Judge Michael Karpf said in an interview Tuesday. "To tell you the truth. It doesn't look like a courthouse. We don't have enough courtrooms. There are judges scrambling around on a daily basis looking for a place to hold court."

And Karpf says that leads to overcrowding at the Chatham County jail.

"If the courts can move their dockets along, the cases can't be processed. The natural result is that the prisoners stack up in the jail."

More than $30 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales tax dollars was earmarked to renovate the courthouse. Judges thought that work would begin in January.

"We find out at the last minute there's no money left," Karpf said.

As Karpf understands it, the funds went into the County's new Pete Liakakis Government Building, to building a tunnel under the courthouse for moving prisoners, and to building a records center in Garden City, which -- after three years -- still isn't finished.

You can't take a project to 95 percent complete and then walk away from it," Superior Court Clerk Dan Massey said.

Commissioners are looking for answers.

"I have asked the county manager for a breakdown of where the monies that have been collected have been spent so that the commission will be brought up to speed on the courthouse," Commissioner Helen Stone said.

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