County Sends Jail Plan Back for Study
Schematic drawings of a proposed detention center and public safety complex startled some members of the Moore County Board of Commissioners during its Monday night meeting.
After their first glimpse of the drawings, the commissioners voted unanimously to send the architects back to the study committee for further work and recommendations to the board.
"I didn't realize we were looking at a four-story building," Commissioner Tim Lea said.
Commissioner Larry Caddell said the jail expansion should not be designed for 700 prisoners when the immediate need is for no more than 261 beds. He cited information that jail usage has slowed down slightly in recent weeks.
"We're looking at maybe a 20-year time frame." Commissioner Jimmy Melton said. "Hopefully, we won't need all that much space."
The commissioners also agreed on two of three recommendations from the Courthouse Facilities Advisory Committee but were split on the issue of adjusting an architect's contract to design a new county government office building for the Carriage Oaks Complex rather than on the same downtown Carthage tract, where the jail/public safety building is planned.
Architects from the Ware Bonsall firm unveiled schematic drawings for the jail/public safety complex to the commissioners for the first time during the meeting. The design includes a four-story jail, with two mezzanine-style levels and a three-story building serving such agencies as Emergency Medical Services, emergency communications, emergency management, the fire marshal and the Sheriff's Department.
The varied votes on other building-related issues raised questions about use of the 21-acre tract purchased by the county two years ago for a major jail expansion as well as a public safety building and a county office building. The commissioners later decided to combine the expanded jail and the public safety facilities into one building complex, to be constructed adjacent to the existing jail. The county paid $1.5 million for the land acquired from Johnny Grimm.
However, use of the tract for both the jail/public safety complex and the office building has come into question in recent months because of revelations by court officials that a new court facility will be needed in the not so distant future. That raises the issue of sufficient space on the Grimm tract for three buildings because part of the land is wetland and cannot be developed.
The commissioners were unanimous in accepting two of the recommendations from the Courthouse Facilities Advisory Committee. They agreed to retain a professional consultant to study the courts' short- and long-term facility needs and that a courts facility should be located adjacent to or near the new detention center.
However, they balked on the other recommendation, which sought a delay in a decision about placement of the new office building until the consultant has completed a study of court facility needs.
In a heated exchange later in the meeting, the commissioners split along the normal 3-2 line on the issue of amending another architect's contract for design of the office building.
In rejecting a revision of the contract, Chairman Nick Picerno and Commissioners Caddell and Melton appeared to be voting to place the office complex on the Grimm property, rather than the Carriage Oaks Complex about a mile from the historic courthouse and the existing Courts Facility and jail.
Architect Katherine N. Peele, of the LS3P Boney firm, had been asked to provide an estimate of the cost to amend her contract to design the office building at Carriage Oaks rather than the Grimm property. She had already prepared preliminary plans for the building to be erected on the Grimm property downtown when the issues of court facility needs were raised. If the office building is to be built at Carriage Oaks rather than downtown, then she would need to do additional work to adjust the building plans to a new setting.
Her estimate indicated that the revision could be carried out for no more than $34,230. This would have included site concept design and analysis and building concept diagrams and related services.
The commissioners did not discuss details of her proposed contract revision.
Instead, Commissioner Cindy Morgan made a motion to approve the amended contract. Her motion failed when Caddell, Melton and Picerno voted against it with Lea the only commissioner agreeing with her.
Melton followed with a motion to place the building on the Grimm property, a move that would eliminate the need for an amended contract. The vote was again 3-2, along the same lines.
A frustrated Lea asked why the board persists in naming committees to study issues if the commissioners are going to ignore recommendations. He said the other three were not taking into consideration the build-out and footprint requirements for buildings planned for the Grimm property. He said that, with their vote, the county is now looking at the potential for erecting three structures on the Grimm tract, although a committee member, retired architect Howard Warren, has advised that the property will not accommodate three large buildings.
Melton pointed out that the county has not decided to build three buildings on the Grimm property. He said only two buildings have been planned.
Accusing the others of having their "head in the sand," Lea told the three to use common sense in making decisions. He called attention to the years that both he and Melton had served on the Planning Board.
"It amazes me that you can totally ignore the need for a detention center for 600," Lea said.
Picerno told Lea that he was "putting words in our mouths" and hinted that he was speaking in the expectation of being quoted in the press.
'Have a Need'
Discussions of other building issues were far less rancorous at other times in the four-hour-plus meeting.
Picerno and Lea were warm in their praise of the Courthouse Facilities Advisory Committee chaired by Senior Resident Superior Court Judge James M. Webb but still managed to disagree on make-up of the committee.
"No one can argue that you don't have a need," said Picerno in thanking Webb for his service and that of his committee.
Picerno did express his opinion that the committee's work became somewhat politicized because he and Lea were members of the panel. He said the committee would probably have worked more smoothly if the two commissioners had not been members.
Lea agreed with Picerno about "the excellent job" done by the committee but disagreed about the political issue.
"I don't think this committee has gone political at all," Lea said.
Webb reported that the committee held three meetings, one of which included a tour of the Courts Facility from basement to top floor and a tour of a modern facility in Harnett County. The tour and other committee findings revealed a number of problems with the existing 30-year-old Courts Facility, including such things as inadequate office and storage space for the clerk of court, too few courtrooms, security issues in courtrooms and offices, evidence rooms not in compliance with state regulations, a shortage of small conference rooms, and inadequate office space for probation officers, most of whom are now located in rental property some distance from the Courts Facility.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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