Ahoskie lobbies for courthouse relocation

Published 10:05 am Monday, September 19, 2011

AHOSKIE – Hertford County’s largest municipality has officially tossed its proverbial hat into the ring in an effort to bring the much-debated courthouse construction project here.

On Tuesday, Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn sent a letter to Hertford County Board of Commissioners Chairman Johnnie Ray Farmer and Hertford County Manager Loria Williams asking for her town to be considered as a possible location should county officials decide to relocate its governmental facilities, particularly the new $8.2 million courthouse.

The letter was sent less than 24 hours after the Winton Board of Commissioners, after a 90-plus minute debate at its Monday night meeting, denied a parking variance sought by county officials while the new courthouse was being constructed in Winton.

During its Aug. 15 meeting, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a motion that authorizes the county manager to explore moving the seat of government to Ahoskie and/or relocating the site of the new county courthouse to another location.

The county commissioners and Town of Winton officials have been at odds over the new counthouse project, especially the parking problems, over the past several months.

“I want to reiterate Ahoskie’s interest in hosting the Hertford County facilities within its jurisdiction,” Mayor Blackburn stated in her letter. “Much discussion has taken place between Winton and Hertford County on this issue (and) now the Ahoskie Town Council would like to schedule a meeting with the Hertford County Commissioners and Manager to discuss the possibility of the relocation and what we can do to assist Hertford County in their decision.”

Blackburn went on to say that it’s logical to locate the courthouse in or near the municipality that provides the most services and facilities in the county, to include medical, retail, dining and lodging as well as boasting of the county’s largest voting district.

“Building the proposed courthouse in Winton would have far less potential economic impact for Winton or Hertford County,” Blackburn wrote. “Building it in or near Ahoskie would create the opportunity for new businesses or services, which otherwise would not build or open in Winton. This, in turn, would generate more tax revenue for Hertford County.”

The Mayor suggested two parcels of property that may be suitable to meet Hertford County’s needs. One already has water/sewer infrastructure in place while the other currently only has access to county water. There was no information provided on the acreage of either parcel.

Blackburn also touted Ahoskie’s newly renovated wastewater treatment plant, a facility capable of handling 1.6 million gallons a day.

“This plant is specifically designed to handle growth,” Blackburn said in the letter.

She added that the town is willing to waive all water and sewer connection fees should the county opt to move the courthouse to Ahoskie.

“Decisions (to move governmental facilities) of this nature should be determined by economic principles and what is best for Hertford County,” Blackburn noted. “The Hertford County Board of Commissioners has an obligation to the taxpayers to do what is in the best interest of Hertford County. In this case it means locating the courthouse where it is best suited – Ahoskie.”

Meanwhile, Town of Murfreesboro officials are also lobbying for the possible relocation of the courthouse. Late last month, Murfreesboro Mayor John Hinton sent a similar letter to county officials where he promoted the strengths of his town and why moving the courthouse there would of benefit to county citizens.

The Hertford County Board of Commissioners will meet in regular session at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 19. Mayor Hinton is on the agenda to speak to the board concerning the relocation of the courthouse.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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