Parking problem studied

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 11, 2003

JACKSON – There is no charge to park in the county-owned lot located behind the Northampton County Courthouse. However, finding an empty space, especially when court is in session, may be likened to winning the lottery.

As requested by the Northampton Commissioners, a recent parking assessment study, performed by Andy Crew, Director of the Public Works Department, yielded several interesting facts concerning which individuals use the lot on a continuing basis.

Crew’s study, officially released at Monday’s Board of Commissioner’s meeting, showed that 73 percent of the available parking could be utilized by the county/court system employees on a daily basis.

In his report, Crew counted 67 parking spaces in the lot. Of that number, 15 are reserved, using clearly marked signs, for the following: handicapped parking (2), Board of Commissioners (5), judges (3), District Attorney (2), Clerk of Court (1), Court Reporter (1) and County Manager (1).

Upon further review, Crew found no statutory authority listed in the North Carolina General Statutes pertaining to reserving parking spaces for county commissioners or any other county/court system employees. The only statutory authority listed in the General Statutes is GS 20-37.6, which is specific to handicap spaces only.

Crew’s report also identified the exact number of county/court employees that routinely park in the lot. He identified 67 employees that work in the 13 county/court departments in and around the Courthouse Square. Of those employees, 49 routinely park in the Courthouse lot. The remaining 18 normally park on one of the side streets or in front of the Courthouse.

In addition, Crew discovered there are seven, state-owned vehicles assigned to the Northampton court system. Those vehicles could be parked in the lot at any time during the day.

All totaled, Crew’s study revealed that if all of the aforementioned parking spaces were utilized at one time, four vehicles would have to find alternative parking as there would be 71 vehicles vying for 67 spaces.

Compounding this problem are the days when court is in session. Finding an empty spot in the lot or even on an adjacent street on these days is next to impossible. Those citizens attempting to conduct county business, other than court proceedings, on days when court is in session are often left with a long walk to the Courthouse Square.

Crew said that parking in the lot and on the adjacent streets improved following lunch on court days. His report also indicated that parking availability in the lot was adequate in the morning and good in the afternoon on non-court days.

The County Commissioners accepted the report and will begin to study ways to improve parking in and around the Courthouse Square.