Moore County Commissioners met with Carthage officials on Thursday to discuss a somewhat contentious proposal to expand the county courthouse by closing part of a downtown thoroughfare.
The design recommended by Moseley Architects would eliminate a section of Dowd Road, a concession that Carthage commissioners worry will cause traffic congestion and reduce the already limited number of parking spaces near downtown businesses.
“Cutting off our street is going to be a huge deal for us in Carthage,” Mayor Lee McGraw said. “I know a lot of you only come here when you have to, but we live here.”
A schematic presented during the meeting would double the size of the courthouse, allowing the building to house the district attorney’s office. The schematic also calls for a landscaped promenade and an underground sally port for transporting inmates.
Under the recommended proposal, motorists traveling north on Dowd Road would need to make a left turn on Saunders Street and then turn right on Ray Street to reach the downtown traffic circle. Milton Dowdy, the mayor pro temp, believes the change will snarl traffic in downtown Carthage.
“I would hate to be part of creating a nightmare just so you guys would be able to put your buildings together at the expense of the citizens of Carthage,” he told county officials. “I would expect the (county) commissioners to look at the considerations of the citizens before the convenience of a courthouse.”
County commissioner Catherine Graham, a Carthage resident, said the county is sympathetic to the town’s concerns.
“We represent your people in Carthage just like we represent the people out in the country,” she said. “We want to be good partners to all municipalities.”
Wayne Vest, the county manager, told the local board that the proposal is not set in stone. The county, he said, will not move forward with the plan presented on Thursday unless it can do so “in concert with the town.”
“Carthage has been a great host to the county for many, many years, and we’re very concerned with anything we do having an impact on Carthage,” Vest said. “The whole reason for this discussion is to make sure whatever direction we head with this facility, it does address the concerns and it doesn’t create a nightmare.”
The two boards ultimately decided to collect feedback from residents through a public forum, which Graham said could be held after a traffic impact analysis is conducted by the state Department of Transportation. Vest said architects will provide the town with clearly labeled schematics to share with residents.
The courthouse opened in 1979 to replace the old courts facility, which still 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.