Fewer Places to Sit in the County Seat
By John Chappell
It would seem there are fewer seats in the county seat these days.
Two bedraggled benches that long stood, scuffed and weatherbeaten, nails protruding, just down from the old Moore County courthouse and opposite the new one are gone. Carthage dug them up and carted away their remains.
The news brought strong approval from Carthage town commissioners at their August session last week.
“It is a real pleasure to see those benches gone,” Commissioner Catherine Graham said at the Town Board meeting. “I thank the Appearance Committee for all they are doing.”
While it may take some time, Commissioner Pat Motz-Frasier said after the meeting that she expects one day outside benches will return to the county seat’s downtown.
Robbins, Carthage’s north Moore neighbor, has taken the opposite tack: It got some grant money and used it to provide materials for a volunteer merchant to build new benches and planters for downtown.
In Carthage, crowded court calendars often saw people sitting on the old benches. Smoking is not allowed on county property, so many went across the street to light up.
The removal of the old resting places disappointed one young man last week when he found they were missing. Brandon Clement sometimes sat there just outside a midtown sandwich shop.
He’d just gotten off work at his landscaping job and was waiting for his fiancee to tend to matters across the street. She’d gone over to the Moore County Courts Facility, locking the car behind her, and Clement thought he’d sit outside to wait for her.
When he looked for his usual bench, there was only a sandy spot where it last stood. Clement walked down the block, but the other bench was gone too.
Clement said he couldn’t wait in the car; his fiancee had locked the door and had the keys with her. He couldn’t go inside the courthouse to wait or get the keys, because he had no place to leave his cellphone.
Mobile phones and most other electronic devices have been barred from the court building for security reasons since last year.
So Clement made do, parking himself on the fender by one of the bare spots, looking somewhat wistfully at it and casting doubt the town would replace the old benches.
“They could; they probably won’t,” he said. “Towns are broke. Everything else keeps going up. On a nice day — on a lunch break — you could sit here and eat a sandwich.”
Bench removal is one sign of a renewed interest in the appearance of the old county seat, particularly the downtown area so often visited by out-of-towners in Carthage for business with courts or other offices.
The new Appearance Committee reported to commissioners that the building’s owner had agreed to remove the broken benches and possibly make a donation to put toward the purchase of new ones.
In the meantime, Town Manager Carol Sparks told the board, he’d consented to let town workers dismantle and remove them.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or jfchappell @gmail.com.
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