The Moore County Board of Commissioners awarded a $41.1 million contract on Tuesday morning for the long-anticipated courts facility project in Carthage.
New Atlantic Contracting, Inc., a Winston-Salem based firm, was the lowest bidder of seven companies participating in the bid process.
“This is not the end but it is definitely the beginning of the end,” said Commissioner Catherine Graham, noting initial discussions for construction of a new courthouse facility began at least 15 years ago.
Graham, a former clerk of court, thanked current and past members of the Courthouse Facilities Advisory Board including fellow Commissioner Jerry Daeke, members of the Moore County Bar Association, the county’s District Attorney and Sheriff’s Office, and Capital Projects Manager Rick Smith, among others, for their work and input throughout the process.
“It is a day of gratitude for me and a day of appreciation for so many who brought this to pass,” Graham said. “I am grateful to God that I got to see this.”
The scope of work includes construction of a new 120,000-square-foot four story courthouse addition and renovation of the county’s existing 47,000-square-foot courthouse. A new facade will tie the two buildings together visually. The project will also include a secure parking area.
The overall courthouse facility project is estimated to cost $53.1 million, which also includes demolition of the old Carthage firehouse, rebuilding two parking areas, and construction of a connector for Dowd Road.
With an eye on rising construction and materials costs, the project was divided during the bid process with specifications for a 120,000-square-foot primary new facility (the base bid) and alternative bids requested for related projects.
During a special meeting on April 26, County Manager Wayne Vest said the base bids had come back low enough he did not think there would be any need to scale the project back.
The courts facility project is expected to be financed with Limited Obligation Bonds, contingent on approval by the N.C. Local Government Commission.
A public hearing to consider the Limited Obligation Bonds request has been called for May 18.
In addition to the $41.1 million courthouse facility, the county proposes to refinance the McDeeds Creek Elementary School project, which has an outstanding principal balance of $26.35 million; an upgrade of the county’s water treatment plant that has an outstanding principal of $12.7 million; and the purchase of general obligation refunding issued to the East Moore Water District’s phase III project, with an outstanding principal balance of $2.95 million.
Over a Decade in Planning, Discussion
Moore County has been under increasing pressure from the state judicial system to replace or expand the current facility due to poor and crowded conditions.
Ironically, the existing facility was built under the threat of a court order. It opened in 1979 when the county’s population was around 42,000.
The Courthouse Facilities Advisory Board was established in 2009 and, the following year, a space needs study indicated a 116,700-square-foot facility would be needed, at a cost estimated at $22 million. Another follow-up study by another firm, in 2012, estimated that a new 105,000-square-foot courthouse would cost $25.2 million.
A grand jury in late 2013 identified a number of deficiencies and security issues and the chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court assigned Emergency Superior Court Judge Michael Beale to monitor the county’s progress in addressing its courts facility space needs.
Finally, in 2016, another inspection conducted at the request of Senior Resident Superior Court Judge James Webb concluded that the existing Courts Facility is inadequate and poses serious security “hazards” despite a $1.4 million renovation project in 2014.
“The current Moore County Courts Facility is not adequate to meet the current or future capacity requirements of the court,” the report said of the concrete structure built in 1979 under threat of a court order. “The Moore County Courts Facility is at maximum capacity and we recommend that change is required to enhance efficiency of the overall system. The courthouse facilities are 36 years standing, are antiquated and the original design and modifications are insufficient to accommodate the future capacity and increasing requirements of the court.”
A subsequent space needs study completed in the summer of 2017 projected that a 180,000-square-foot facility was necessary to meet current and future demands. Construction costs at that time were estimated at about $38 million.