MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2000 7:00 P.M.

PRESENT: John F. Watts, Chairman
David S. Odom, Vice Chairman
Joel C. Harbinson
W. Darrell Robertson
STAFF: Rick French, County Manager
Jamie C. Millsaps, Clerk to the Board
Ben Hines, Register of Deeds


The Alexander County Board of Commissioners held a work session with Jim Powell, ADW Architects P.A., on Monday, October 30, 2000 at 7:00 p.m. in the Agriculture Extension Room. The purpose of the work session was to discuss the space needs study for the Clerk of Court Office, Sheriff’s Department/Detention Center, Courthouse, Department of Social Services, and Register of Deeds and is for information and discussion purposes only.

Jim Powell informed the Board that the same process was followed during this space needs study as the previous study. Space needs questionnaires were distributed to department heads which were completed and returned to Mr. Powell. Mr. Powell explained that the findings in the space needs studies were determined by the type of operations in each department, how much space was currently available, and how much was space was needed currently and in the future (5 to 10 years). Mr. Powell also suggested which departments needed to be located next to each other.


Mr. Powell stated that the major space need for Alexander County was the Clerk of Court Office and the Detention Center. In order to provide adequate space for these departments, the Courthouse would basically need to be a little more than twice the current size. Mr. Powell suggested adding on to the backside of the Courthouse, closing 1st Street ( between Courthouse and Dayton property), and tearing down the Dayton property for parking. Negotiations would need to be made with the Town of Taylorsville since they maintain 1st Street.

Commissioner Harbinson stated that there are many problems with the Courthouse. The acoustics are a major problem and it is hard to hear during court. Also there is no waiting area. Mr. Powell stated that the ceilings could be dropped to provide better acoustics. Commissioner Harbinson suggested building a new courthouse on the land currently owned by the Department of Corrections and the Department of Transportation on Highway 16 South. A juvenile detention center will be constructed where the old prison building is located which will only cover 5 to 10 acres. That will leave around 25 acres that Alexander County can use if the State agrees to our request. Commissioner Harbinson stated that is would be a great location since it is a highly traveled area and it would be easily accessible. The Library is also in need of more space. Commissioner Harbinson stated that the Courthouse would be a great location for the Library. There is lots of space, it would be in a good location for business, and felt the current Courthouse building is more suited for a library type department rather than a courthouse. Mr. Powell asked if the Courthouse would be difficult to renovate to accommodate a library and that it would be much more expensive to build a new courthouse rather than add on. There were several inquiries to the cost of additions to the Courthouse. Mr. Powell stated that it would be very costly to just build a jail and that an average price would be $150 to $175 per square foot.

Commissioner Harbinson stated that he did not want to "piece mill" the current Courthouse because it would be possible that later on additional space would be needed and more renovations would have to be made. He stated that he would like to build a new courthouse that would be adequate for the next 70 or 80 years.

Ben Hines, Register of Deeds, agreed with Commissioner Harbinson, stating that many counties have a "one stop" courthouse where all related offices are located in the courthouse such as Courts, Juvenile Counseling, Sheriff’s Department/Detention Center, Register of Deeds, Probation Office, and Tax Office. Mr. Hines stated he would like this to be implemented if a new courthouse is built. Commissioner Harbinson agreed and stated that he would like to take a tour of the courthouses in Ashe and Wilkes Counties. All staff that is directly related to the Courthouse and its functions would be invited to attend.

Chairman Watts informed Mr. Powell that a new Wal-Mart is being built across the street from the old prison site. The County is currently investigating leasing the current Wal-Mart facility when the new one opens. The building is about 41,000 square feet and could be used for County offices. Chairman Watts stated that the offices that are currently in the Administration Building could be moved to the Wal-Mart building. The Board of Education has stated that they would be interested in moving into the Administration Building and using their Central Office as an alternate school. Chairman Watts stated that the Health Department could possibly move into the Wal-Mart building as well and felt that it would be a good location for County offices, especially if the courthouse is across the street.

Commissioner Odom stated that the Town of Taylorsville and the Police Department could use more space and would possibly be interested in the Administration Building also.

Mr. Powell stated that the Wal-Mart building would not be the best type of building for office space since there are no windows for natural light. Skylights could be installed, but there would be few windows and there may be some complaints from employees.

Mr. Powell suggested working with the campus approach with the courthouse offices. Instead of building one big courthouse with all offices included, build one office at a time in the same area as funding is available.

All agreed that the County may get pressure from many businesses in town as well as the lawyers if the courthouse moves to a different location.


Mr. Powell stated that DSS needed more space for offices. There is only one meeting room, all the others are being used as offices. There is a need for more waiting area space. There is also a need for file storage. There is no designated area for confidential files. Mr. Powell suggested adding on to the backside of the DSS building. There is plenty of room for additions.


Mr. Powell stated that one obvious problem with the Register of Deeds Office is the layout. The vault is at the back of the building. In order to get there, the public must walk through the work area. This could be a possible safety issue for the employees working in the Register of Deeds Office. Mr. Hines stated that he liked the vault that is in the current building and requested that, if he was moved sometime in the future, the same type of vault be installed in the new office.


Commissioner Odom stated that he would like for Alexander County to have a Town and County Center that could partner with the local YMCA. Included in the center would be an auditorium for dramas, speakers, etc. Commissioner Odom felt that the Dayton site or Courthouse would be a good place for the Town and County Center. The Dayton building would be completely torn down and the center would be built in its place.

Mr. Hines agreed with Commissioner Odom stating that Alexander County has no place for presentations, special speakers, dramas, etc. Mr. Hines stated that he would like to see a large auditorium constructed for these types of activities.

Several inquired about the possibility of gutting the top floor of the Courthouse for use an auditorium and possibly using the large courtroom for the library. Commissioner Harbinson stated that the Library would probably need all of the space in the Courthouse.

Chairman Watts informed Mr. Powell of the annual Commissioner’s Retreat in January and asked that Mr. Powell prepare cost and land procurement information to be presented at the Retreat.


Rick French, County Manager, informed the Board of several additional items including:

    1. County staff has ordered "Progress" signs to be placed on school construction sites, parks, and other developmental type projects. The signs read "Pardon Our Progress as Alexander County Moves Forward".
    2. A public hearing is scheduled for the Commissioner’s Meeting on November 14, 2000 for the purchase of the Grier Lackey facility. This time-table will allow LGC consideration for December 5, 2000.
    3. The Animal Shelter Committee will have finalized plans soon. Mr. French gave the Board some details as to what type of offices will be located in the building. There will be a lobby and a large meeting room. Commissioner Robertson stated that a monument may also be constructed in front of the building.
    4. The Gates Foundation Grant for the Library has been approved.
    5. Alexander County is on the November 17, 2000 agenda for the North Carolina Community College System Meeting regarding designation as an official community college center.


There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.



  John S. Watts, Chairman           Jamie C. Millsaps, Clerk to the Board