Murfreesboro lands courthouse

Published 12:39 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2012

WINTON – “Nobody beat Bunch.”

Those were the words of Curtis Freeman, Chairman of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, after that public body voted Tuesday morning to move forward with building the county’s new courthouse on the Percy Bunch property located on the outskirts ofMurfreesboro.

The decision, which came after a lengthy closed session at the conclusion of the board’s regularly scheduled meeting, ends months of debate of where to site the new courthouse. The Stuart Pierce property just west of Ahoskie was the other site the commissioners were considering after an original list of nine properties was trimmed to the final two.

After re-entering open session, Commissioner Ronald Gating motioned to select the Pierce site, with Freeman offering a second. That measure was defeated, 3-2, as Commissioners Johnnie Ray Farmer, Howard Hunter III and Bill Mitchell opposed Gatling’s motion.

Hunter then motioned to select the Bunch property. Farmer offered a second and those two, along with Mitchell, formed a majority to approve that motion, one opposed by Gatling and Freeman.

Murfreesboro Mayor John Hinton was ecstatic upon learning the news.

“It’s been a long grind,” Hinton said. “I just really appreciate the county commissioners, first with the time they took and, second, their absolute strength of character for standing up for what they believe in. I’m happy for us.”

As far as to what this means for his town, Hinton stated, “Right this minute I’m almost at a lost for words. It will enhance the way of life (inMurfreesboro), it will enhance marketing, enhance publicity…it will certainly help us to develop the (US158/258) bypass, first with this magnificent building.”

Despite seeing his choice fall by the wayside, Freeman, speaking on behalf of his colleagues, said the board will now be unified behind the Bunch property.

“No matter how much we may have disagreed along the way, the end result is we will move forward and do what we feel is best for all citizens ofHertfordCounty,” Freeman said. “Sure, I favored the Pierce property because I felt it was in a more centralized location, but the Bunch property was the most affordable. He (Bunch) gave us the best price.”

When asked about an “11th hour” plea on behalf of Winton officials for the commissioners to reconsider the Riversedge property just west of that town, Freeman said that parcel of land, which was one of the final three choices, was discussed.

“Again it just came down to price; nobody beat Bunch,” Freeman said.

The Bunch property, according to financial figures provided by the county to this newspaper, was offered at $7,500 per acre for 25 acres. There would be no cost to the county for sewer as the Murfreesboro Town Council, at its Nov. 8 meeting, adopted a resolution whereas the town would extend its wastewater lines to that property. That resolution also removed the Bunch property from the town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ). The county will tap into its own water line at the site of the new courthouse.

In comparison, the Pierce property was offered at $13,000 per acre for 25 acres. The county would have to pay an additional $20,000 to tie into Ahoskie’s water and sewer infrastructure.

The last offer from the Riversedge development was $7,000 per acre for 25 acres, significantly lower than the $12,500 per acre at the outset of negotiations. The county would have the bear the costs of getting sewer lines to that property, a price tag set at roughly $60,000.

The next move by the county will be to work out a contract with Bunch. If there are no hang-ups there, Freeman said he would like to see the county break ground soon on the new courthouse.

The new $7.86 million facility is currently designed at 44,000 square feet spread out over two full floors and a partial third floor. It will become the home of all offices using the current courthouse in Winton as well as adding Probation and Parole, the office of the District Attorney and the office of Child Support Services. Those latter two offices are currently at the same location in Ahoskie where the county leases a building for approximately $75,000 annually.

(Staff Writer Amanda VanDerBroek contributed to this story.)

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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