tampabay.com

Mold drives out traffic hearings

Cases scheduled for the Floriland Business Center will be heard at the downtown annex.

By COLLEEN JENKINS, Times Staff Writer
Published September 12, 2007


TAMPA - Dangerous mold levels in a courtroom have forced officials to cancel all traffic hearings scheduled for September at the Floriland Business Center.

Those cases will be rescheduled and heard at night and on Saturdays at the downtown courthouse annex starting Oct. 1, Court Administrator Michael Bridenback said.

The arrangement is expected to last at least through November, possibly longer depending on the progress of repairs.

Bridenback likened the situation to dealing with the effects of a hurricane.

"It's kind of the emergency operations being put in place," he said Tuesday.

Clerk's officials learned late last week of the mold outbreak, the result of air conditioning breakdowns and roof leaks. They canceled court hearings for this week but too late to alert defendants personally.

During Bridenback's two-hour visit to the N Florida Avenue site on Monday, about 500 people showed up for their court hearings and were turned away, he said.

Defendants will be notified by mail of their new hearing date.

For the next two months, three to four hearing officers will hold court four nights a week. An officer will also hold Saturday court.

The cases will be heard on the second floor of the courthouse annex at 800 E Kennedy Blvd. County criminal traffic cases are heard in those courtrooms during the day.

Bridenback said if additional courtroom space can be found, hearing officers might also pitch in to ease the traffic docket overload faced by two county judges.

The staff of the clerk of the circuit court's traffic department, based at Floriland, has been dispersed temporarily to other offices.

Customers can pay traffic tickets at clerk's offices in Brandon, Ruskin or Plant City or online at www.hillsclerk.com.