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OUR VIEW – City needs commitment from county

Lincoln County’s $17 million plan to move many of its offices out of downtown Lincolnton and into the old hospital on Gamble Drive will change the city, and not for the better.

The list of offices that will remain in downtown, detailed in a story in a recent edition of the Lincoln Times-News is, for the most part, a who’s who of places most of us hope we don’t ever have to go — “clerk of court, adult community corrections, district attorney, guardian ad litem, information technology, judge’s offices, juvenile court counselors, library, magistrate’s office, public works maintenance, register of deeds, bailiffs, senior services, tax administration, tax GIS/mapping and tax reappraisal.”

All you have to do is sit outside the courthouse at the end of a session, or hang around the probation office, and you’ll see what the majority of the foot traffic in downtown will be limited to should the county pull up its stakes. Business owners, understandably, are not pleased.

One local business leader said the city needs a “commitment” from the county — that the county should solidify its bond with the city by maintaining its offices in downtown.

What’s more, the county should not even consider saddling its taxpayers with $17 millions worth of debt — not including interest — when there is already plenty of unused real estate in downtown, including several parcels and buildings owned by the county. Moving into empty spaces in downtown may not be the best option, but it is an option.

The Citizens Center looks like a ghost town on most days. The idea that private businesses will one day inhabit the Citizens Center which is, frankly, hideous as far as aesthetics go, is preposterous.

The old jail, just a block from the Times-News offices, is an empty eyesore. The former 36th Street Bakery building on Court Square, though privately owned, sits vacant.

City leaders have, at least publicly, been astoundingly quiet about the county’s plan. That shows a serious lack of leadership. The mayor and the members of the city council should be screaming about the plan from the rooftops. They’re county taxpayers too, after all.

The county needs to reconsider the move. If the need to relocate is so desperate that it necessitates racking up millions of dollars of debt, that need should be met in a manner that will have the least negative impact on the county as a whole. Abandoning downtown doesn’t fit that criteria.

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