WELLSBURG - A local attorney and many who participated in an informal survey said they want the Brooke County Courthouse to remain open on Saturdays.
The Brooke County Commission has discussed closing the courthouse on Saturdays, when it currently is open from 9 a.m. to noon, and extending its hours on Thursdays so that it would be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The courthouse's current weekday hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
RENEWING VEHICLE REGISTRATION — Jim Zulkoski of Weirton renewed his vehicle registration Thursday with the help of Sally Cassandra, a tax deputy in the tax office of the Brooke County Courthouse. The Brooke County Commission is considering closing the courthouse on Saturdays and extending its hours on Thursdays, a move opposed by some.
County Commissioner Jim Andreozzi, who raised the issue, encouraged the public to voice their opinions by calling him at (304) 737-4024 or (304) 224-6619.
He had suggested comments be submitted by the commission's next regular meeting but said Friday more time will be taken to consider the idea.
"There will be no action on it Tuesday," Andreozzi said, referring to the next meeting, which will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the courthouse.
He added the commission could consider other options, such as opening the courthouse on specific Saturdays each month.
The idea was spurred by requests from some county employees and reports of little traffic at the courthouse on Saturdays and noted only three county courthouses in West Virginia are open on Saturdays. The others are in Wetzel and Roane counties.
Andreozzi said it wasn't prompted by financial concerns. Currently a small number of courthouse employees man their departments on Saturday mornings and do not work on three hours during the regular work week to compensate for it.
Andreozzi said if the courthouse was closed on Saturdays, employees would work different shifts on Thursdays to accommodate the extended hours, which are intended to make the courthouse accessible to those who work on weekdays.
But attorney Marc Chernenko and others have suggested closing the courthouse on Saturdays would create an inconvenience for many, particularly those with long work commutes on weekdays.
He has asked members of the Wellsburg Chamber of Commerce to join him in vocally opposing the move.
Chernenko said, "By being open on Saturday morning, the courthouse is able to provide services to our neighbors, clients and customers who may have to wait until then for a real estate closing or register to vote, to pay their taxes or simply to buy their automobile registration sticker at the last minute."
He continued, "We all know of friends and clients who have moved away from Brooke County but have had to return to administer a parent's or other family member's estate. In many instances, they were able to qualify before the county clerk only on a Saturday morning because of their work obligations and the travel time from their distant towns."
Chernenko added many young couples who have left the area have returned to file for a marriage license on Saturdays so they could be married in their hometown or in the case of Bethany College alumni, alma mater.
He said even if the hours are extended to 6 p.m. on Thursdays, Brooke County residents who commute to jobs in the Pittsburgh area won't be able to get to the courthouse before closing.
Several courthouse employees said there are very few visitors to the courthouse on Saturdays.
Hank Durante, who is among security guards who man the courthouse's entrance, said there were about 60 visitors on March 2 and an average of 40 for each Saturday over the last seven weeks.
Durante said many visitors have asked about Saturday hours but he's also turned away a number who arrived at the courthouse at 8 a.m., before it opens.
Several area residents who were surveyed outside area businesses supported Chernenko's position.
Judy Johnston of Follansbee said, "I think that would hurt a lot of people because they work (on weekdays) and aren't able to get there except on Saturday."
Vicky Bennett of Wellsburg acknowledged the courthouse would be open later on one day "but then they would have to rush home. The taxpayer needs a little help."
"I work all week so I need it open on Saturdays," said Derrick Murdock of Wellsburg.
Douglas Vogtssburger of Follansbee said, "One weeknight doesn't seem very fair because the majority of people are off on Saturdays. I'd have to see how many people they were seeing on Saturdays."
Ed Schupbach of Wellsburg said, "I think a lot of people work and would have trouble getting there except on Saturday, so I don't think it's a good idea."
A smaller number said the change would affect them less.
"I prefer to have it open Saturdays, but I could live with longer hours on another day," said Mark Van Leeuwen of Follansbee.
Jennifer Reed of Weirton said, "I don't go there much, but I could see how it would be more convenient for people to go there on Saturday."
"I don't think it would affect me either way. As long as they're extending hours on another day, it's OK," said Megan Wood of Follansbee.
"It would be convenient for me to go after work on a weekday," Theresa Temple of Wellsburg said.
And Luvinia Rice of Weirton said, "I don't do a lot of business there, and I didn't know they were open on Saturday."