HANCOCK COUNTY — County prosecutor Brent Eaton and his staff may have a new work place to call home, but the new office is far from being ready to house the 24 employees it takes to handle thousands of criminal cases.
It’s been a little over a month, Oct. 28, since the old prosecutor offices, 27 American Legion Place, Greenfield, were condemned when mold forced workers out of their normal workspace in a nearly 130-year-old downtown building. While the prosecutor’s office made the official move into the former Community Corrections building, 233 E. Main St., Greenfield, two weeks ago, only five employees have been able to set up their own work stations while the other 18 are working remotely from laptops.
Nearly all the stationary computers are still in boxes along with thousands of case files and other office needs awaiting county officials to help get things set up and running properly.
“We still don’t have our data lines installed and we’ve got to get that in order to access all our data,” Eaton said. “We’ve got people literally working without spaces, no offices and minimal support, but we are continually seeing that work is getting done.”
While criminal cases are getting filed and prosecutors are going to the courthouse, Eaton noted it’s been hard trying to run an office from boxes the past 30 days and without all of his staff.
“It’s a real testament to the people we having working here and a real credit to their work ethic because they are collectively working hard to make sure we don’t miss a beat,” Eaton said.
Director of Operations Shelli Poppino was the first to move into the new office space two weeks ago. She set up her own computer to get things going in the new facility. Since then, litigation paralegals Marci Haw and Taylor Short set up their computers, but are doubling as receptionists.
“If we could just get someone to come in and help us tomorrow (Tuesday), I know we can get all rest of the computers set up,” Poppino said. “For the most part, our paralegals have not been able to get in here at all yet.”
Victim Assistance Coordinator Shannon Crull and Eaton moved in as best they could this week. While Crull has her office set up, Eaton is still working from his laptop which was sitting on top of a filing cabinet charging with the hopes county officials can get his desk computer up and running sooner rather than later.
“There really is not much hope right now,” Eaton said.
Unfortunately for Crull, who works in the backside of the building, there was a door alarm going off nonstop giving off a piercing, irritating sound.
“We’ve been told that might get fixed tomorrow,” Eaton said, about the alarm. “But the biggest thing for me is trying to get everything done in the courts without all my people here.”
Eaton beleives rushing into a new facility and having to set things up on the fly could have been avoided if county officials would have made a decision to move the prosecutor’s office out of their former building into the old Community Corrections building much sooner rather than waiting until they had to due to the mold issues.
“We’ve told county officials about the troubles in that old building for years, but there was always something more important than our offices,” Eaton said. “Right now we don’t have that cohesiveness like we’re used to having, and it’s been really hard these past 30 days.”
Eaton said he’s always looking for ways for the judicial system in the county to be more efficient and is frustrated working without all the proper tools.
“People played politics and it was a ticking time bomb that blew up,” Eaton said about the old offices. “There were people with petty selfish agendas and that got in the way of taking care of a long-term problem we’ve had at those older offices, and now we’re having to deal with getting things reorganized and set up in a hurry here.”
Eaton noted he sets the bar high and tries to live up to the expectations of the community while dealing with poor working conditions while trying to achieve what is expected from the office.
“We need to be in an environment where our workers can thrive,” Eaton said, with the alarm sound going off non-stop in the background. “This has not been an ideal transition and the most frustrating thing is it could have been avoided.”
Poppino feels they should have everything and everyone set up and working in the new offices within a couple of weeks, but Eaton wasn’t as optimistic and said they’ll be lucky to have everyone in place by the end of the year.