After a move to its new facility on Prater Way, the Sparks Justice Court can now officially call its old Greenbrae Drive facility what it was dubbed the day the courts moved in 20 years ago: temporary.
In 2012, the Sparks Justice Court completed a nearly $3 million project constructing a new 28,000-square-foot facility, eliminating problematic space issues and bringing new life to the court. The new facility allows an extra 16,000 square feet for the justice court, which was used to add a third courtroom, a hearing room and major updates to security protocols.
Court Administrator Janine Baker said all Sparks Justice Court staff are in the process of unpacking while handling the rush of court hearings due to the one-week hiatus needed to move. Though the courts were closed for a week, Baker said the staff really never took a day off.
“We really have been hustling to get everything in here and I think we had every member on staff working during the move,” Baker said Wednesday during a tour of the new facility. “We were able to pack everything in the old building in just one day with everybody on staff. Then it took us about two and a half days to move everything over here.”
While touring the biggest courtroom, which has a maximum occupancy of 108, Baker said the third and final courtroom will be ready in about a week or two, at which point all the courtrooms will have audio and video capabilities fully in place. She said even while unpacking continues, the vibe throughout the building brings a much different presence than the previous housing.
“We look really good in the public eye but on the back end we are still getting things set up and unpacked,” Baker said. “We want people to feel good when they come in here and not bring any intimidation to their visit. We are very proud of the colors and the inviting presence we offer with this building and it really sets the tone for people to be respectful and for us to return that respect to them.”
Security measures were greatly improved at the new site as four holding cells, a private meeting room, security surveillance room and 36 cameras were installed throughout the building. The public has been completely walled off from interaction with inmates awaiting a hearing and a private loading and unloading dock for the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office adds privacy to any transports to and from the court.
“One thing we have noticed from back when we were in the old building was how people’s attitudes change depending on the building they come into. You think you’re in a courthouse, you act like it,” said Justice of the Peace Kevin Higgins during the construction process. “People don’t always have respect for the court, and they are not always here for something happy, but if they come in and it looks respectable, then things are going to turn out better. And that has been very true of this facility and how the attitude is affected.”
One of the most impressive features of the new facility is a long, winding hallway used to get from the judges’ chambers to the courtrooms. Administration personnel spoofed the McCarran Boulevard loop in naming the new courthouse’s ‘justice loop.’
Baker noted the $3 million used to bring the courthouse to the 1675 E. Prater Way, Suite 107 location was the same fund created to build an entirely new facility after the court moved into the Greenbrae Drive facility. Keeping the same budget for the new facility helped maximize the use of every room in the building.
“We’ve been very responsible with public money on the project. It is going to be nice, but we’re not talking about as much as old courthouses with granite or marble all inside them,” Justice Higgins said. “It will be nice and efficient and we have spent the money well.”