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Commissioners approve courthouse study, discuss other space needs

Staff Writer

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday evening to execute a contract with Moseley Architects to evaluate the potential future of the courthouse in downtown Lincolnton.

Moseley Architects — a full-service architectural, engineering and interior design firm based in Charlotte — will conduct a space need analysis and feasibility study of the Lincoln County Courthouse. The contract comes at a cost of $153,000 to the county, which has been included in this year’s budget.

As it stands currently, the courthouse faces a number of issues resulting from a lack of space inside and surrounding the building. The courtrooms and administrative offices are in dire need of additional space to accommodate the growth of the county and functionality and security are compromised by the current interior configuration, according to information posted on the county website. The building is not fully handicap-accessible and limited parking creates traffic congestion around Court Square at certain times of day.

The county is searching for the most viable option to renovate the courthouse or, if that’s not feasible, construct a new courthouse fit for all court functions and administrative offices. Early estimates for that potential project range from $20 million up to $35 million.

The courthouse study will likely play a key role in determining how the county addresses its other space needs, which was the topic of discussion during a special called meeting on Monday afternoon. No votes were cast during the meeting, but County Manager Kelly Atkins did receive a consensus from the commissioners on how to move forward with the relocation of the Lincoln County Senior Services department.

Currently, Senior Services operates on the Lincoln campus of Gaston College and the original plan was to move the department from that location to the old R.B. Cronland Hardware site on Salem Church Road. The move to Salem Church Road would require the county to renovate the existing garden center building and construct a 2,000 square-foot multi-purpose room at a total cost estimated to be $850,000 and, even then, the 10,800 square-foot location would be a significant downsize for the department. The senior center at Gaston College features 16,000 square feet, albeit on three stories, which has been a concern, considering the department’s primary clientele.

On Monday, the commissioners agreed to have Atkins pursue other possibilities for the relocation of the senior services department, including an old medical office for sale on Center Drive in Lincolnton. The roughly 17,000 square-foot facility is currently listed at a price of $750,000, although renovations would likely be needed at an additional cost to the county.

Exploring other possibilities for the Senior Services department could allow the county to move the emergency management and fire marshal offices from the courthouse basement to the Cronland site on Salem Church Road. This move could help to create enough space to avoid having to construct a new courthouse, pending the results of the Moseley Architects study.

The commissioners also discussed potential capital projects that could be on the horizon such as the new county government center that was put on hold during budget talks earlier this year. The government center, which has been planned for construction at the site of the old Lincoln County Hospital on Gamble Drive, would come at a cost of $12 million.

County commission chairman Bill Beam expressed concern with overcrowding at the Harven Crouse Detention Center, adding that the county might need to consider expanding or building a new jail some time in the near future. The jail has been over its capacity of 168 inmates every day for the past two months, according to Lincoln County Sheriff David Carpenter, who said that there are approximately 200 inmates serving time at the facility right now.

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners will meet again for their regular monthly meeting on Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m. on the third floor of the James W. Warren Citizens Center, located at 115 West Main Street.

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