Jail Bids Separated from Government Complex
Bidding on the public safety/detention center project will be separated from the government office building in the bidding process.
The Moore County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to remove the government center project from current bid documents, opening the way for the county to advertise separately for bids for the public safety complex.
The vote was 4-1 with the chairman, Tim Lea, casting the dissenting vote.
In a Tuesday telephone interview, Lea said his vote reflects his conviction that the government center should not be placed on the Grimm property, where the public safety/detention center is to be built
"I do not feel that the government center should be on the same property with the detention center," Lea said Tuesday.
Lea reiterated his belief that the best place for the government center would be a corner of the Carriage Oaks Complex, property already owned by the county and the present site of the social services department and other county agencies. The Moore County Veterans Memorial also occupies a portion of the complex.
The bid process decision was on the Monday agenda at the request of the Major Capital Projects Task Force, which reviewed construction drawings for the public safety complex at an April 26 meeting. Sheriff's Chief Deputy Neil Godfrey, who chairs the task force, and Public Works Director Dennis Brobst made the presentation to the commissioners Monday.
Lea wanted the board to rescind a decision made last summer on a 3-2 vote to place the government building on the Grimm property.
The Grimm property is a 21-acre tract adjacent to the existing jail. The land was purchased in 2007 for $1.5 million and was originally intended for three smaller buildings - the detention center, a county government office building and a public safety building. A decision was later made to combine the detention center and the public safety building into one building.
Courts Need Space
In 2009, the picture changed when court officials revealed a dire need to enlarge and upgrade facilities serving the judicial system in Moore County. They asked the commissioners to rectify this situation and recommended that any new and expanded courts facility be erected beside or near the new detention center.
That would leave the existing courts facility, in use since the late 1970s, as a vacant building on Courthouse Square in downtown Carthage. An architect and other professionals have said it would be impractical and costly to expand and renovate the building to meet present-day needs.
However, the Grimm tract contains wetlands at one end of its borders and is not large enough to accommodate three major structures plus the parking areas needed to serve those buildings.
A committee looked at the Carriage Oaks property last year, and a planning design consulting firm studied the feasibility of placing the office building there. Two sections of the Carriage Oaks complex would be large enough, but one has a wetlands area that would render it unsuitable for development. This area is behind the social services building.
The section of Carriage Oaks that was both large enough and suitable is on sloping land near the corner of the property, adjacent to U.S. 15-501. The complex, a former shopping center, already has a large parking lot.
However, the issue before the county commissioners this week was whether to advertise bids for the public safety/detention center complex and the office building as one bid or two.
It was one in a series of issues raised at the April 26 meeting of the task force, which also asked whether the county should go ahead with the government center bidding process if the board wants to keep flexibility as to its location.
The motion by Commissioner Larry Caddell was to remove the government center bidding process from the public safety/detention center bidding process. His motion also calls for appropriate changes to follow up on that action in the formal legal bidding process. It does not directly address the location of the government center, which, under the board's split vote last summer, remains on the Grimm property.
Both Lea and Caddell attended the April 26 meeting.
Jail Opposition Repeated
The location and the potential for enlargement of the detention center have attracted vigorous opposition because of security concerns. Opponents have argued that such a large detention facility should not be erected in proximity to a school, churches, the public library and homes and that it would also lower property values.
In fact, a leader of that faction addressed the commissioners during the public-comment period of the Monday meeting.
Bert Patrick repeated her opposition to the proposal but clarified her position as not opposing the enlarged facility, just to its location in downtown Carthage.
Signs opposing the location remain in yards throughout Carthage.
Opponents fear that the detention center will eventually be enlarged to accommodate 600 or 700 inmates. That would more than double the initial planned occupancy size.
The government center, now to be bid separately, would house the county administration, county attorney, tax, finance, human resources, planning and information technology agencies and related offices. These operations would be transferred from the historic courthouse in downtown Carthage and from other sites in Carthage.
The planning department, environmental health and inspections offices are now located in the same building with the Department of Social Services. By removing their offices, the DSS would have space for expansion. The county is now renting space for DSS records.
In addition to providing more spacious quarters for county operations, the building is designed to accommodate modern technological advances with greater energy efficiency. The building will also include a meeting room for the county commissioners that would be more comfortable with improved acoustics. The room where they presently meet is a former courtroom in the historic courthouse.
The public safety portion of the other building would serve the fire marshal, emergency medical services, emergency communications and related safety agencies. They are now located in the Currie Building next door to the library and a block from the existing jail.
Contact Florence Gilkeson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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