Courthouse land purchase approved

Published 5:02 pm Tuesday, December 7, 2021

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JACKSON – The project to construct a new courthouse in Northampton County moved one step forward this week after the Board of Commissioners agreed to purchase land during their meeting here on Dec. 6.

The parcel, approximately 10 acres in size, is located on Jefferson Street (Highway 158) in Jackson, just east of the State Employees Credit Union building and within the town limits. The seller is listed as Lewis Bull Hill Properties LLC, a locally owned real estate property.

As previously reported by the News Herald, in February, the commissioners approved an option to purchase that parcel of land, giving them two years to decide if they wanted to exercise that option. In that agreement, the negotiated price for the 10-acre plot was $65,000 per acre, bringing the total to $650,000.

County Attorney Scott McKellar stated at Monday’s meeting that the final purchase price for the property will be $621,050 after a negotiated reduction in price. That money will be paid from the county’s Fund Balance, and then will be reimbursed through a $14 million grant, which was included in the recently approved state budget to be used for construction of the new courthouse.

State House Representative Michael Wray of Gaston was also in attendance at Monday’s meeting, speaking about the county’s allocations from the state budget.

“It was an honor and privilege to get $14 million for the courthouse,” Wray said, noting that it will help keep the cost burden off of the local taxpayers.

Commissioner Nicole Boone motioned to approve the resolution to authorize the land purchase, and Commissioner Kelvin Edwards seconded. The vote was unanimously in favor, though Commissioner Geneva Faulkner was unable to attend Monday’s meeting.

The conditions of Northampton County’s current courthouse have long been a topic of discussion by the board.

In Dec. 2020, Superior Court Judge Cy Grant and District Court Chief Judge Brenda Branch attended the commissioners meeting to share their concerns and explain the need for a new building. They detailed structural problems that have caused issues with plumbing, mold, and bats over the years. They also mentioned safety and security as a major concern as well.

Conceptual designs for the courthouse from Oakley Collier Architects were also presented at that meeting.

At a meeting in Nov. 2021, Board Chair Charles Tyner alluded to limitations on the current building, which is registered as a historic landmark, saying, “we cannot repair it to do what we need to do for our court system.”

Tyner estimated that construction on the new courthouse should begin in March.