Departments might be shuffled inside Prosser courthouse

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldApril 9, 2013 

Some Benton County departments might shuffle work space within the courthouse in Prosser -- a move officials said could improve customer access and work flow, ease crowding in some work areas and provide more secure settings for some sensitive tasks.

County Treasurer Duane Davidson and Auditor Brenda Chilton presented the idea Tuesday during county commissioners' regular meeting.

The county might make some other courthouse improvements -- including remodeling the restrooms -- and commissioners were scheduled to vote on authorizing up to $5,000 for preliminary planning work from an architecture firm.

They gave the OK for county staff to bring back an estimate of what it would cost to expand the scope of that work to include looking at the so-called "courthouse shuffle."

Commissioner Shon Small, chairman of the board of commissioners, said he's glad to see the topic come forward.

"I know this has been an issue for several years," he said during the meeting.

The shuffle could include:

-- Moving two auditor's office accounting workstations so the department's accounting staff is in the same area.

-- Moving the prosecuting attorney's office work area, which would be displaced by the accounting shift, to the second floor treasurer's office, which has space.

The move would give the prosecutor's office easier access to a conference room; it also makes sense because the prosecutor's and treasurer's offices work closely on bankruptcy claims and payment, according to information from Davidson.

-- Moving the GIS office to the first floor, providing better access, giving the cramped department more room and putting it closer to the public works department

-- Relocating the sheriff's office work area to the second floor area that today is home to GIS -- a move that would provide a more private and secure setting for the sheriff's office work.

Davidson and Chilton also are proposing modifications to the treasurer's office reception area and the auditor's election center for efficiency and security.

An office for the county engineer also is needed in public works.

Also Tuesday:

-- Commissioners agreed to send a letter to the state Department of Ecology saying the county wants to withdraw from the Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Management Area, or GWMA, and form a new GWMA covering all of the county.

"Assessing our participation with the GWMA to this point, we have concerns about the functionality of the Advisory Committee, as well as the amount of active representation on the committee afforded directly to Benton County interests," says a draft of the letter included in commissioners' meeting packets.

"Moreover, it is our desire to address groundwater issues on a countywide basis," the letter says, noting the Lower Yakima Valley GWMA covers only the Yakima River Basin to Benton City.

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