The Carthage Board of Commissioners on Monday approved an agreement to shutter a portion of Dowd Road for the planned expansion of the Moore County Courts facility.
The agreement, which will be presented to county commissioners for approval on Tuesday, requires the county to reroute a section of Dowd Road by constructing an access road behind the Rick Rhyne Public Safety Center. The county must also use the property surrounding the erstwhile Fred’s department store “exclusively for free public parking” for the next 10 years.
According to the agreement, the town and county will “jointly develop, install and pay” for wayfaring signs in Carthage. The county will also work with the town to “install crosswalks and signs to protect the safety of pedestrians.”
Multiple meetings have been held in recent months between county commissioners and the town board, whose members expressed misgivings when the road closure was first proposed in August. At the time, local officials feared the closure would cause traffic and parking issues in downtown Carthage.
During a public hearing in February, County Manager Wayne Vest said findings from a traffic study indicate the closure will have “minimal impact” on traffic congestion. Additionally, he said, closing the section of Dowd Road would eliminate a so-called “vehicle-pedestrian conflict point,” potentially improving safety for people walking to and from the courts facility.
The existing Courts Facility opened in 1979 to replace what is now called the Historic Courthouse, which sits in the middle of downtown Carthage. For the past few years, the county has been under increasing pressure from the state judicial system to replace or expand the current facility.
Carthage commissioners voted 4-1 Monday to present the agreement, which was completed earlier that day by town attorney T.C. Morphis, to the county. The dissenting vote was cast by Commissioner Dustin Smith.
“I just want to put it on the record that I do not agree with this,” Smith said of the agreement. “What we’re really getting here is a few terms of mitigation for what (the county) is doing. Basically, we’re going to let them close our street and cause all this trouble for some wayfaring signs and getting the rent that they rightfully owe us for a parking lot.”