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Coos County's North Bend Annex, a former hospital, used to house county offices. The state court functions in the building will move to Coquille in November.

NORTH BEND — Coos County officials announced Tuesday a plan to close and sell the county's North Bend Annex building, which currently houses some circuit court functions.

Those court proceedings will be centralized in Coquille after the closure, and state funding will allow the county to renovate the county's main courthouse to add capacity.

All of the county's other offices in the building, including Coos Health & Wellness and the Assessor's office, moved out years ago to other facilities, leaving the state's courtroom as the only occupant in the former hospital. At the time of those moves, the state judicial department decided to keep the court annex in the building.

Now though, the building is raising concern for court officials, and they've come to an agreement with the county for a move. The building's heating system no longer works, and the building's large size makes it difficult to keep secure, according to Trial Court Administrator Thomas Lankford.

"There are some general safety concerns about being in the building," Lankford said, noting that someone set a fire in the building's stairwell earlier this year.

It's also costly for the county. Board of Commissioners Chair Melissa Cribbins estimated Tuesday that keeping the building open costs the county around $50,000 a year in electricity and natural gas expenses.

Currently, the courtroom in the building is home to one judge, Brett Pruess, who handles smaller matters like small claims, landlord-tenant issues, violations and traffic cases.

After Nov. 16, anyone who needs to go to court to deal with one of those matters will have to go to Coquille to do so, meaning some people will have to travel farther to make required court sessions.

"There will be an impact, that's inevitable," Lankford said. "That impact is going to be seen and felt over time."

Still, Lankford said many of the cases which are currently heard in North Bend don't necessarily require appearances. He's also confident that some options for appearing by phone or video call, which have increased in frequency because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will remain.

"Those options are likely to stay with the court system forever," Lankford said.

In Coquille, $125,000 from the Oregon Judicial Department will go to the county for the renovation of the county courthouse. County documents show plans for a new courtroom, as well as judge and judicial staff offices.

The renovations, which will displace some county staff to other offices, are scheduled to be completed next year.

In the meantime, any court appearances scheduled for Nov. 16 or later will take place in Coquille. Parties should check in at the main courthouse at 250 North Baxter Street, according to the court.

Reporter Zack Demars can be reached at worldnews3@countrymedia.net.

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