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Public gives input on Chatham courthouse rebuilding effort

Posted September 20, 2010
Updated September 22, 2010

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— Six months after flames nearly destroyed the historic Chatham County Courthouse, commissioners held another public hearing to get residents’ input on the rebuilding process.

At Monday night’s public hearing at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro, the public gave input on recommendations made by the board’s 21-member task force.

"I saw Pittsboro, alive, (with) activity and burgeoning,” resident Beth Kricker said at the hearing of her vision for the courthouse.

The task force had input from more than 500 residents to put together the recommendations on how to rebuild.

"There was one over-riding consensus in the county, and that was to put the courthouse back to the way it looked before,” task force member Susan Little said.

A March 25 fire gutted the building, which was built in 1881, and caused its iconic clock tower to collapse. Authorities determined the fire was accidentally started by workers involved in an exterior renovation and that the blaze quickly spread in the building's attic.

The task force told commissioners that a courtroom should be retained when the county rebuilds its landmark courthouse.

In addition to a second-floor courtroom, the panel recommended continuing to house the Chatham Historical Association on the first floor, along with museum space, a possible visitors' center, meeting space and art displays.

The courtroom should look as much as possible like the old courtroom, the task force said, but should feature updated lighting and sound systems and handicapped accessibility.

Some residents also like the task force recommendation of making the courthouse available for public meetings, historical programs and cultural events.

"Have the courthouse serve the people of Chatham County,” resident Beth Kricker said.

The county needs to develop policies on public use of the courtroom and other spaces in the building, the group said.

Doris Betts said she wants to see a restoration, but thinks the courtroom should mainly serve its intended purpose.

"To reduce it now to some multi-purpose would strike at the very heart of Chatham County,” Betts said at the hearing.

The renovation to the courthouse should be paid mostly by the insurance policy the county had on the building. Next month, commissioners will firm up plans on what the renovation will look like and a timetable.

"What our hope is that this fire of 2010 will be part of the history of the courthouse and not the end of it,” Commissioner George Lucier said.

This fall, the county will break ground on a new Judicial Center, which will house all local courts once it opens.

31 Comments

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  • chellemw Sep 20, 2010

    Neither 64 nor 15/501 are MAJOR highways. The are country highways that link country towns. And like Mikenjennifer said, they both need repaved before money is thrown away on a skeleton of a courthouse.

  • mikenjennifer2410 Sep 20, 2010

    I SAY TEAR IT ALL THE WAY DOWN. NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU REBUILD IT AND RESTORE IT THE WORD "HISTORCAL" CAN ONLY BE REFERRED TO THE WALLS STANDING BEACUSE THE REST OF IT BURNED. YOU CAN NOT FULLY SAY IT WAS BUILT IN 1881 ANY MORE BEACUSE EVERY FLOOR ON IT HAS TO BE REBUILT. IT IS NO LONGER A LANDMARK PEOPLE OF CHATHAM COUNTY. IT IS VERY SILLY REBUILDING IT AND BUILDING A NEW COURTHOUSE AT THE SAME TIME. PITTSBOROS DOWN TOWN ROADS SUCK THEY NEED REPAVING AND THEY ARE WORRIED ABOUT A BUILDING. BUILD A NEW COURTHOUSE AND PUT A R.I.P. ON THIS BUILDING. THE ECONOMY IS BAD ENOUGH WITHOUT STRIPED TAX PAYERS HAVING TO PAY A TAB THAT SHOULD NOT BE THERES IN THE FIRST PLACE......

  • tobywilliamson58 Sep 20, 2010

    Don't spend money on this project. Relocate and build a modern structure!!So what about historical significance!! Bah Humbug!!

  • novacrazy2000 Sep 20, 2010

    this is for Tzanavich- please do some homework befor you make comments about on main roads going though Pittsboro. I 've been living here 40+ years and 15-501/87 and 64 all go though town up until a few years ago they all went to the center of town ( the court house ) Sure Pittsboro not known all over the world but if you live in a North carolina you just might have gone by it.

  • Garnerwolf1 Sep 20, 2010

    How much is the contractor, his insurance, AND his employees, going to pay? Obviously there is a need for a courthouse, but there are cheaper ways than rebuilding it, especially if they try to replicate the destroyed building.

  • cuntryboy Sep 20, 2010

    How about taking some money and upgrading the water system! Build, Build, Build..... never mind the fact that if the fire department had a good water supply on that day, there probably would have been a lot less damage done. If we don't start puting some money back into the infrastructure of the town and make some necessary upgrades, then it don't matter what you build or rebuild.... when it hits the fan.... stand back and watch!

  • wildcat Sep 20, 2010

    The Chatham County residents should not be burden with the tax or anything? We did not cause the damage, the contractor did. Charge them.

  • tzanavich Sep 20, 2010

    Can/should the residents of Chatham County be expected to taken on this tax burden? Should the County Commissioners revisit their plans and decisions before they commit there constituents to higher taxes? Should the County Commissioners be focused on bringing in revenue to offset the already stressed budgets before they commit the residents to more deficits and higher taxes?

  • tzanavich Sep 20, 2010

    If rebuilding the courthouse means higher county taxes how much support would there be to rebuild the courthouse? More information is needed from the County Commissioners regarding the cost to rebuild the courthouse and how they are going to get the revenue to not only pay for it, but also how they are going to get the revenue to pay for it’s on-going upkeep and maintenance.

    Is the Chatham Historical Association going to purchase the space that they are going to use for their proposed museum or are the taxpayers going to incur the ongoing burden of supporting it?

    Given that Pittsboro is not well known to the rest of the world and is not on any main highway, how many visitor’s will there be to the court house? Most likely, the cost of providing staff to maintain the planned museum, visitor center, meeting center, and art exhibits will exceed any income that can be earned from these areas and will be an on-going tax burden to the county.

    Can/should the residents of Chatham Cou

  • Tarheel born Sep 20, 2010

    Rebuild it....it's "free" money from the original contractor and his insurance agency.

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