DA's office expands public hours
by Kellen Short
The Watauga County District Attorney's Office will expand its public hours starting Oct. 14.
Starting on that date, the office will be open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with a lunch closure from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The office cut its public hours in October 2012 to three hours each afternoon amid concerns about interruptions and heavy workloads for its thin staff, District Attorney Jerry Wilson said at the time.
Chief Prosecutor Britt Springer, a candidate for district attorney in 2014, said she has continued to hear concerns from the public about the reduced walk-in hours, resulting in the upcoming change.
"While we are still short-staffed, we have made giant strides in the backlog of old felony cases, and for this reason, more manpower time can be given to the public in regards to simple traffic tickets and the like," she said in an email Thursday.
The district attorney's office has always maintained an open-door policy for attorneys, law enforcement officers and crime victims, she said.
The Watauga County Courthouse houses four assistant district attorneys and one legal assistant, Springer said. The office lost one legal assistant two years ago due to budget cuts, and the position has not been restored, she said.
Springer said she has asked the other ADAs to join her in being available in the morning hours and said she expects the group will be able to handle the walk-ins efficiently.
Other district attorney offices across the 24th Judicial District, which experience lesser caseloads than Watauga, have remained open to the public throughout the day and will remain.
"Addressing private citizens' concerns will always be a priority of the District Attorney's Office," Springer wrote.