Monday, June 17, 2024
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Commissioners Ask Justice Center Parking Questions

After some 90 minutes of questions from Putnam County Commissioners at a Monday Night work session, the board will once again consider the purchase of two pieces of land near the county justice center next week.

The board voted against the purchase last month, effectively ending the plan to expand the jail and court room space. Commissioners Chair Mike Atwood said he wanted the work session to clear up confusion that surfaced after that decision.

“We know what the issue is Monday night and you’ll be asked to make a choice,” Atwood said. “What I wanted to make sure is that you knew what the results of that outcome whether it’s positive or negative.”

Commissioner Dale Moss said the decision seems simple.

“A few months back we voted to expand over there,” Moss said. “Now, we’re fussing over how many parking spots we’re going to have. We’re not going to have enough, either way we go. Why are we fussing over whether we buy one or two cause we need them both.”

The jail and courtroom expansion requires some 822 parking spaces. Without the piece of land at Spring Street across from Freeman Tire and the triangular lot on Broad Street, the project does not have enough spaces to go forward.

Architect Grant Tharp said his team had done a careful consideration of how many people work in the Sheriffs Department, how many people visit, individual courtroom capacity, and staff in court to come up with the 822 number. The Jail and Justice Center currently have 265 spaces. A total of 170 will be lost to construction.

County Mayor Randy Porter said the facility already has a parking problem with weekly complaints from local businesses about court visitors in their areas. Porter said some businesses have begun towing people.

Commissioner Jim Martin asked that the architects provide a more in-depth layout of the property and more exact numbers of how many parking spaces will fit in the two proposed properties as well as the three parcels that are in the process of being purchased.

“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the needed number for the justice center, the jail and the court system,” Martin said. “While we’ve got land available to us, we need to act on it.”

Commissioner Kathy Dunn said numerous constituents have expressed concern about how far away the Broad Street lot would be from the facility. Porter said it was important to remember that the drawings for the addition moves the building entrance further down Spring Street.

Commissioners will vote again on the two parcels Monday night. Porter said he promised the land owner that following the meeting the county will either purchase the land or let it go. If the county buys both parcels, the price tag will be $650,000 for each.