Local News

Wake County Considers Adding Second Courthouse

Posted September 6, 2005

— Wake County is growing by 63 people every day, but the Wake County Courthouse is having trouble keeping up, county leaders said.

That's why county leaders have proposed building another courthouse in downtown Raleigh.

"We have a building designed and built in the 1960s for Wake County in the 1960s," Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said. "We've adapted over the years to make it 21st century. It's hard."

County officials said they could not adapt the courthouse much more.

On any given day, officials said, there are more than 1,200 cases in the disposition court alone; some Wake County courtrooms are standing room only.

So next month, the Wake County Board of Commissioners will start looking over a plan to build a new courthouse, which may sit on a site that is currently occupied by a county-owned parking lot and an office building

next to the Wake County Jail

.

Although designs have not yet been drawn, a model of the proposed courthouse calls for a high-rise building that would cost between $100 million and $200 million.

"The burden is to figure out how to finance that," Wake County Manager David Cooke said. "That may mean taking it to the voters with general obligation bonds. That may mean looking at other sources of revenue."

The county also will have to replace more than 600 parking lots. Leaders are looking at two sites in downtown Raleigh for additional parking lots, and they hope to have a new parking deck built by spring 2007.

Even when a new courthouse opens, the old courthouse will not go away, officials said. With the rate of growth in Wake County, leaders said they believe they will need the space from both courthouses. The new courthouse would handle criminal cases, they said, and the current courthouse would handle civil matters.

"The fire marshal is going to be hanging around if we don't do something soon," Robert Nunley, a criminal defense attorney, said. "It needs to be done and needs to be done soon."

Wake County's proposal for a two courthouse system is not unique.

Mecklenburg County already uses two courthouses in a similar fashion.

Cooke said he hopes construction will start on a new Wake County Courthouse by 2010.

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