Courthouse Chaos

Published 10:02 pm Friday, July 5, 2019

JACKSON – The Northampton County Courthouse had some unwelcomed guests on Monday, July 1 of the furry, winged variety.

An unexpected infestation of bats prompted the evacuation of the historic building located in downtown Jackson. Interim County Manager Robert Murphy reported the incident to the Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting Monday night.

Murphy explained the issue stemmed from repair work done on the courthouse roof.

“When they replaced the boxing, they took the escape routes away from the bats to the exterior,” he said.

That inadvertently prompted the bats to make their way into the interior of the building where county employees were working. Everyone was quickly evacuated to the empty building next door, and luckily, Murphy added, no courts were scheduled to take place during the holiday week.

The work to collect the bats began quickly, and Murphy reported there were at least over 40 bats in total. An exterminator company was hired to come Tuesday to extensively clean the courthouse in the wake of the infestation so people would be able to return to work on July 8.

“Every bit of residue left by bats will be cleaned up so there won’t be any health impact,” he promised.

The interim manager added, however, the bats could not be permanently removed until after Aug. 1 due to a state law which prevents people from removing the animals during their mating season.

“We’ve got a short-range and a long-range plan to tackle this issue,” reported Public Works Director Kirk Rogers, noting they would do what they could to keep bats out of the interior without blocking the exterior openings until a qualified company could safely and legally relocate the bats.

Rogers also explained how the incident happened by saying, “we were asked to go ahead and cover these holes prior to them coming to extract the bats, so I do apologize for this instance.”

Commissioner Geneva Faulkner expressed frustration that the bat situation had not been taken care of sooner, knowing the creatures have been a problem in the past. She also urged the Public Works director to make sure they had contracted an extermination company certified in bat removal work.

“Any area that has tall buildings is a prime location for them to seek out,” she said. “We put our employees in that position, and we should never have been in that position again.”

“We want to apologize to our employees,” added Board Chair Charles Tyner.