Courthouses

The county's historic courthouse, left, and current courts facility as seen from the section of Dowd Road that will be closed to accommodate construction of the new 4-story courthouse addition.

 

The county commissioners are expected to review a $41 million contract on Tuesday morning for the long-anticipated court facility project in Carthage.

New Atlantic Contracting, a Winston-Salem based firm, was the lowest responsive party of seven companies that participated in the bid process. The scope of work includes construction of a new courthouse building and renovation of the existing courthouse. A new facade will tie to the two buildings together visually, and the proposed contract includes development of a new 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.

During a special called meeting on April 26, County Manager Wayne Vest said that base bids and several additional alternatives considered were low enough he did not think there would be any need to scale the project back.

The project has been in the works since 2008 and the Courthouse Facilities Advisory Committee, which was formed in 2009, recommended construction of a new judicial center should be a top priority in 2013.

Space-needs studies were conducted in 2010 and 2012, putting estimated costs to build a new courthouse at $22-$25 million. More recently, a study completed in the summer of 2017 projected that a 180,000-square-foot facility to meet current and future demands would run about $38 million.

The county opted to make use of and renovate the existing 47,000 square feet of space in the current courts facility to reduce the size -- and cost -- of a new courthouse.

Plans call for a four-story addition that will create 120,000 square feet of new space as well as a partial basement with a small, secured parking lot for court officials. The first floor will primarily house the Clerk of Court offices and provide a public lobby. The second floor of the new building will be reserved for Superior Court proceedings, and District Court will be on the third and fourth floors. The existing renovated building will be renovated and connected to the new facility as part of the overall plan.

Rich Smith, the county’s capital project manager, told county leaders during a special called meeting last month that it’s important to remember the lengthy planning process it took to reach this point.

The courts facility opened in 1979 to replace the old county courthouse, 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.

“This is a mandated building, you have no choice,” Smith said, “but I think it is masterful.”

He credited the board with being adamant about revalidating previous space needs studies that had been conducted over the previous decade. By deciding to renovate the existing courthouse, the total project cost was reduced by several million dollars.

“We are going to get the best building at the best price and it is all because of how you all think. I commend you for it,” Smith said.

The courts facility project is expected to be financed with limited obligation bonds, contingent on approval by the N.C. Local Government Commission. This is the same financing tool a previous board used to develop the nearby $32.1 million Rick Rhyne Safety Center and jail in Carthage.

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