Grand Jury inspects Courthouse

Published 12:05 pm Saturday, February 27, 2010

JACKSON — While citizens took a tour of the Northampton County Courthouse on Monday, a grand jury was taking one of their own.

The tour is required by state law for members of a grand jury. According to North Carolina General Statute 15A-628, a grand jury “must inspect the jail and may inspect other county offices or agencies and must report the results of its inspections to the court.”

In their report, signed by Grand Jury Foreman Marvin Gatling Jr., the jury members noted areas of concern, including health risks and security issues with the building.

“We found the Jackson Courthouse to be in very bad and dangerously poor condition,” the report states. “We feel the health of employees and the public who enter the building is a strong concern and should be addressed as soon as possible.”

The jury reported on the “terrible condition” of the walls, floors and ceilings of the courthouse and “the lack of sufficient ventilation in many areas is completely unacceptable.”

The report continues, “The situation concerning live bats and deceased bats is a health concern for all who enter the building. The metal detector seemed to signal every person entering the building and the personnel should be increased to properly secure the building for court.”

The grand jury also noted that parking is “seriously inadequate” for people with physical disabilities as well as courthouse employees.

“The safety and security of the all the county records should be addressed immediately,” the report concludes. “The security of the Judge’s Chambers in the small Courthouse (located next to the main courthouse) needs a lot of improvements.”

On Monday, the public was invited to visit the courthouse in an effort to educate citizens on the ailments of the 152-year-old facility.

The issues with the courthouse continue to be addressed each month by the Northampton County Courthouse Facility and Security Committee, which includes an array of court and county officials and was formed upon the recommendation of the Rural Courts Commission.

After a recent needs assessment, the committee recommended to the Northampton County Commissioners to construct a new courthouse facility at a different site. The project is estimated to cost $11.37 million. The courthouse is fifth on the commissioners’ capital project list.