EDITORIAL: It's Decision Time on Courts Facility
The Moore County Board of Commissioners has reached a crucial point in planning for much-needed facilities to accommodate county operations.
The issue about a new courts facility should have received greater consideration two years ago, when purchase of the 21-acre tract in downtown Carthage was being negotiated with owner Johnny Grimm. Under the original plan, the commissioners envisioned construction of a jail expansion and new buildings to meet public safety and office needs.
These needs are clearly documented. But the need for another building to house court operations was not openly discussed until a few weeks ago, when one of the commissioners brought up the subject. For a number of years, apparently, Resident Superior Court Judge James Webb and former Clerk of Court Catherine Graham have been predicting the need for another building to accommodate the court system.
But can a court building be erected on the 21-acre parcel along with the detention center expansion and construction of a new office building? Further complicating this picture is the projection that within 20 years, the county may need a jail large enough for 600 or more inmates.
Many Interlocking Questions
These questions raise more questions. If the additional court building is a real future need, what is the timeline between now and that reality? And if so, what will become of the existing buildings? Above all, there is the nagging question about cost -- now and in the future.
Use of the Carriage Oaks property for county offices is a valid consideration. Benefits of this location are obvious. The county already owns this tract, the present home of the Department of Social Services and other county agencies. Nestled in one corner is the Moore County Veterans Memorial, honoring all who serve our country in the military. The site is within a mile of the historic courthouse in downtown Carthage, a distance that could be both a plus and a minus. There remain the questions of placement and design.
The architect hired by the county has prepared a preliminary design for the office building, but her plan was designed with the Grimm tract in mind, not Carriage Oaks. The footprint of that plan fits into space available at Carriage Oaks, but the county needs a professional opinion from architects and engineers as to whether that site will work for the plan envisioned for another location.
Work With the Town
No doubt, Carthage residents are wondering what will happen to their downtown if and when these changes are carried out. They may question a sprawling 600-bed detention center, along with a massive new court building, all a short distance from the historic courthouse and the huge Courts Facility erected in the late 1970s.
State and county offices dominate downtown Carthage. In addition to the courthouse and the Courts Facility, the Register of Deeds building stands beside Courthouse Circle, and nearby are the library, the Currie Building, offices for finance and child support, the district attorney and, of course, the existing jail.
If changes are at hand, then it's time to consult Carthage town leaders as well as the judge and clerk of court. The concerns of Carthaginians extend beyond zoning issues and common courtesy. Carthage leaders may have ideas, suggestions and information vital to the county in reaching a decision.
County leaders need to get moving.
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