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Options considered to avoid fire marshal violations in Courthouse

Published: 9:30 AM, 10/11/2012

Author: Rick Hooper
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

NEWPORT-Those involved with court cases in Cocke County could soon find themselves on the outside looking in...literally.

Because of a city and state fire marshal inspection of the Cocke County Courthouse recently, limits have been placed on the number of people who can be in the respective courtrooms and hallways during court sessions.

As a result, the county is looking at options for a holding area to avoid future violations.

"We have criminal court and the grand jury meeting at the same time later this month," General Sessions Court Judge John Bell told members of the Finance Committee on Tuesday. "Unless we do something, there will be violations at that time and the owner of the building is responsible.

"A violation is a Class B misdemeanor that carries a penalty of six months in jail and a $500 fine. It would be the CLB members, the county mayor or both that would be responsible."

Judge Bell said several issues cited by the fire marshals are being addressed, including courtroom doors, additional exits and postings to prevent overcrowding.

"I'm allowed 49 people in my courtroom," said Bell. "Our bailiffs won't let more than 49 in there. We need overtime for the bailiffs and clerks and we need to hire a bailiff between now and Oct. 29-30.

"We may have to put a tent outside with a heater in it. I know it sounds funny but it's not. That's where we're at if something isn't done."

For more details, please see the latest edition of the Newport Plain Talk.

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