County Delays Action on Court Space Allocation
Recommendations for allocation of space soon to become available in the Courts Facility will be tabled until a future meeting of the Moore County Board of Commissioners.
The board agreed to table the matter at a Tuesday meeting after a discussion in which Commissioner Nick Picerno called for a long-term plan addressing county office needs.
“Everybody needs to buy into the plan and keep the politics out,” Picerno said.
Picerno expressed concern that members of the public claimed they were unaware of plans to build a public safety complex and a local government office building in Carthage despite widespread discussion and news coverage of the issue.
The discussion arose when Rich Smith, the county’s property management director, was prepared to present the findings of a special committee studying courthouse space needs.
County Manager Cary McSwain pointed out that approval of the committee’s recommendations falls within the manager’s range of authority. However, McSwain said he wanted the board to be aware of the recommendations before he takes action. He recommended that the presentation be tabled until the next board meeting on Jan. 17.
Commissioner Tim Lea was absent Tuesday because of illness.
The space allocation plan is to provide guidance for use of a large area of the basement of the Courts Facility, to be vacated when the public safety-detention center complex is completed at the end of this year. The sheriff’s department occupies much of the Courts Facility basement and will be moving into new quarters in the complex.
According to a special courts facility space study committee, the basement area to be vacated will not be sufficient to address all the needs of the judicial system in Moore County. Nevertheless, the clerk of court and other judicial services can use the additional space to good advantage until a more permanent solution can be reached.
But Picerno was concerned about planning for the county’s long-term space needs and about public relations.
Picerno estimated that the county has spent $2 million in recent years on architects’ fees, feasibility studies and other land use plans for the public safety complex and for a local government office building, the latter to be erected on an as yet undetermined site.
The original plan called for construction of both the public safety complex and the office building on the 21-acre tract adjacent to the existing jail in downtown Carthage. After a lengthy period of negotiation with the tract’s owner, Johnny Grimm, and other property owners in Carthage, the board of commissioners in 2007 agreed to buy the Grimm property for $1.5 million.
However, later the board learned that it would not be possible to place both large structures on that tract. Adding to the dilemma was information about a critical need for larger and more efficient space for court operations, including courtroom space, clerk of court operations, the district attorney and such related functions as probation and parole services.
“Although it wasn’t done in secret the last time, the next time we go out to build something, I don’t want the public to claim they didn’t know about it,” Picerno said.
His comments were an apparent reference to outspoken opposition to the public safety-detention center expressed after the county had already proceeded with plans to erect the structure.
The $27 million complex under construction between McNeill and Dowd streets in Carthage will house all emergency services, including emergency management, Emergency Medical Services, and 911 communications, as well as the sheriff’s department and the jail.
When the public safety agencies move into the complex, they will vacate the basement and other offices in the nearby Currie Building, but no decision has been announced about the use of those facilities.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story