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Banterra Bank donates millions for Massac courthouse

BY LAUREN P. DUNCANlduncan@paducahsun.com

A donation to Massac County may be a remedy for its aging and cramped courthouse.

Banterra Bank entered an agreement Tuesday with the Massac County Board of Directors to donate an estimated $3.5 million worth of property to the county for possible use as courthouse space.

The bank is constructing a new building for its Metropolis branch at 519 and 521 Ferry St. and will be leaving its facility at 101 W. Eighth Street and residential property at 802 Ferry St. to Massac County. Banterra hopes to have its new location finished in June 2015, when the county can take possession of the donated property.

Jim Morris, executive vice president and chief of legal affairs of Banterra, said the bank decided to donate the property after seeing its own need for a smaller building and the county's need for space.

Morris said the bank, which opened its Metropolis branch in 2000, only uses about 25 to 50 percent of its building, while the county "has a dire need for courthouse space."

"In the process of working out the details, the building would be a lot more suitable for them than for us," he said.

He said the building was constructed in the 1990s and is efficient and modern.

The Massac County Courthouse is badly lacking in modern facilities. Patrick Windhorst, state's attorney of Massac County, is using parts of his office for file storage. Any additional space, he said, could relieve the current cramped quarters.

Tight space isn't the only problem in the building, which houses two courtrooms and all of the county offices except the sheriff's department and jail. The 72-year-old structure, which was built as a part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Projects Administration (WPA) projects, is falling into disrepair.

Windhorst pointed out paint falling off the large courtroom ceiling, light fixtures that are out of use due to water dripping from the leaking roof, bathrooms that have been reduced to one operating stall, and other plumbing, heating and air conditioning problems.

"It's in bad shape," he said.

Windhorst said the county's board received an estimate in 2011 of about $2.5 million to repair the building. Since then, some repairs have been made, such as a new roof that is being put on this summer.

While the new space donated by Banterra won't fix the courthouse's problems, the county has hired a consulting firm to recommend the best steps to take. RQAW Consulting Engineers and Architects of Indianapolis will look at the courthouse, the bank building and the possibility of a new justice center. Its agreement with the county states it plans to complete planning and design work within 90 days and develop cost estimates for different routes the county may take.

Contact Lauren Duncan, Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8692 or follow @laurenpduncan on Twitter.

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