By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer
The lack of sufficient office space at the Curry County Courthouse will soon be alleviated as the District Attorney’s office prepares to move to a new location.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matthew Chandler said the relocation was necessary because his staff has outgrown their current office. The prosecutor’s office houses 39 full-time staff members in 5,200 square feet of space.
Curry County Manager Dick Smith said the District Attorney’s office is definitely in need of more space. “They are really crammed up there,” Smith said. “We jokingly refer to it as bunk desks.”
The new office space will be 13,885 square feet at the Federal Building at the corner of Gidding and Fifth streets. “We will actually have the entire second floor,” Chandler said. The ground level is currently home to the U.S. Postal Service.
Since Chandler was elected District Attorney in November 2004, the staff has increased from nine attorneys to 12. Support staff and victim’s advocates have been added as well.
“One of my original goals when I became District Attorney was to expand our facility,” Chandler said, “so we could better serve the public.”
The District Attorney said the increased space will enable his staff to become more efficient and effective in prosecuting cases.
The new building space was purchased using $100,000 in grant money and funds obtained from the County Commission. According to a New Mexico State statute, the county administration is required to provide a facility for the District Attorney and district judges offices.
Although the move will create room at the courthouse, Smith said it is really just a temporary fix.
“We are out of space,” Smith said, “so this move has created a domino effect.”
According to Smith, the relocation of the DA’s office is part of a 7-year plan that includes moving the circuit court clerks to the vacated space, adding an additional courtroom and constructing a separate criminal justice complex.
The portion of the courthouse that faces Main Street was originally built in 1936 with the back office spaces being added on in 1956, Smith said.
The prosecutor’s office plans to be fully functional in the new building in August.
“I hope we can continue to grow and progress.” Chandler said. “My goal is to eventually outgrow the Federal Building.”