Cooler cells by Christmas

PRISONERS will have heating, cooling and water bubblers in their cells when work now under way at the Wangaratta courthouse is completed.

Yesterday building workers removed old toilets and narrow doors and began cutting concrete in the cells as part of a $2.7 million renovation project.

Court registrar Nicole Saunders said the work in the cells, due to be completed before Christmas, included the installation of combined toilet and hand basin units.

“It also involves the removal of all hanging points in the cells,” she said.

Ms Saunders said the cells would be totally refurbished, with doorways widened and the link between the cells and court 1 enclosed and secured with doors.

A damning WorkSafe report on security and safety in May led to County Court criminal cases being moved to Wodonga for the rest of this year.

That was because prisoners could no longer be held in custody at Wangaratta.

Ms Saunders had a meeting with an interior designer yesterday in readiness for the work on court one, the larger court room in the Wangaratta centre.

This work is expected to be finished by the end of January.

Large sections of paintwork are peeling from the high ceiling in court 1, caused by a leaky roof that has since been fixed.

The project will also address structural and safety issues in the building.

Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark announced the renovation project in May.

It was decided early on that the cells had to be given priority over other parts of the courthouse.

Mr Clark said the project would provide better facilities for court users, visitors, the judiciary, staff and police.

The building dates from the late 1930s.