Judge: muffle noisy generator

Published 5:21 pm Wednesday, June 19, 2013

As if there were not enough problems at the Beaufort County Courthouse with power outages and the resulting evacuation of inmates, a loud generator just outside the courthouse caused a District Court judge to tell the county to fix that problem or face being held in contempt of court.

The issue surfaced during a special called meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to deal with courthouse and jail issues.

Michael Paul, the chief District Court judge in the Second Judicial District and whose office is in the Beaufort County Courthouse, by letter informed County Attorney Billy Mayo that the generator — when it runs during the day — is loud and disrupts court sessions and him when he is working in his office. Paul wrote that the noise produced by the generator is “adversely affecting the ability of the court (in) carrying out its duties.”

Paul also wrote: “When noise or other disruption occurs in the courtroom while I am presiding, it is my practice to call attention to the offending conduct and warn that such conduct will not be tolerated and must cease and not be repeated under threat of contempt.

“The county should take this as my warning that this offending noise and conduct during the hours that the courthouse is open for public business must cease and not be repeated.”

County Manager Randell Woodruff told the board the county has been dealing with the generator issue for several months. The generator was installed to help reduce energy costs at the courthouse, which houses the jail in its basement.

“It’s been an off-and-on problem from the beginning. The generator is extremely noisy when it operates. It was placed next to the building there and interferes with the staff inside the building — unable to do their work because of the noise. … The reason for that directive from Judge Paul is to make sure we proceed with addressing that problem,” Woodruff said. “We have contact the company that operates that generator and they will no longer operate it during the period from 8 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.) Mondays through Fridays. They will only operate it after 5 p.m. in the evenings and on weekends. So, I think that problem has been solved.”

The only the time the generator would come on otherwise is if all power going into the courthouse is lost, Woodruff said.

“It would come on to keep the building operational,” he said.

“We’re waiting to hear back from Judge Paul. I notified him about how we hope to address that issue and make sure it’s an acceptable solution with him,” Woodruff said.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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