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Chatham County commissioners review options for a new meeting room

Posted Thursday, June 23, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - Chatham County commissioners discussed options for a new commissioners' meeting room during their June 6 board meeting. Ms. Renee Paschal explained that since the early 1990s, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners has not had a permanent meeting space. Meetings have been held in Superior Court, District Court, the Agriculture Auditorium, the Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) Multipurpose Room, etc.

For several years the Board has discussed having a permanent meeting space, including the 964 East Street Building (Performance Building). A permanent space would give the opportunity for a higher quality sound system, make videotaping meetings easier, and eliminate the need to set up and break down meetings, which causes wear and tear on equipment and furnishing.

If Commissioners want a permanent meeting, several options exist:

964 East Street: When FirstHealth vacates the space it rents from the County, approximately 7,500 square feet would be available in this building. Part of this space could be upfitted for a Commissioners‘ meeting room. This option is likely the most costly as no infrastructure currently exists for the meeting space. A public occupancy requires approximately 10 square feet per person, so the space could be sized to hold up to 600 to 650 people. This space offers adequate parking. Because the meeting room would be in back of the building, the space does not have a street presence.

Historic Courthouse: When the historic courthouse is rebuilt, the second floor courtroom will be available for Commissioners‘ meetings. Because the space is currently being planned, the County has a unique opportunity to upfit the space for a Commissioners‘ meeting room without a great deal of additional expense. The benefits of the space are its formal presence and a large meeting room with capacity for approximately 300 people. The drawbacks are the lack of parking. In addition, the shared use with courts would require that the meeting space be set up and torn down for each meeting.

Temporary Superior Court/Old Pittsboro Memorial Library: With minimal renovations the temporary courtroom space could become a Commissioners‘ meeting room with seating capacity of approximately 80-100. In addition, the improvements to the law enforcement site would offer adequate parking for the building. This building has the advantage of being able to serve as a permanent commissioners meeting space and video and audio systems could be permanently set up, so that staff time required for meeting set up would be minimal.

Based on direction from Commissioners, staff will obtain cost estimates for the preferred site. Ms. Paschal stated that staff recommends that the temporary superior courtroom be designated the permanent Commissioners meeting room and that the historic courthouse be used for ceremonial occasions and meetings requiring greater seating capacity.

Commissioner Cross stated he liked that idea and believed that by the time they got that built they would have ample parking available.

Chairman Bock agreed.

Commissioner Kost stated that the plan had been to consolidate and pull together and provide space to their MIS department, so if the Board were to take that space what did that do to the overall space plan and how would they shuffle people around. Ms. Paschal stated it accommodated MIS now and for a bit of future growth, but it did not accommodate the long term growth they would need to remain in that building.

Commissioner Kost stated her only other concern was that the board meetings seemed to be drawing a larger crowd these days and that the room would not be adequate for many of their meetings. Ms. Paschal stated if the board felt that they needed only one space, then the best option would be the historic courtroom. Commissioner Kost stated that would be the way she would lean, but it appeared that staff believed the space would be adequate for most meetings. It would be nice to be able to make a decision based on numbers as well as cost. Ms. Paschal stated those would be brought back to the Board before any final decisions were made, but at this point staff was seeking direction from the Board.

Chairman Bock stated that most of the time they were aware when a larger crowd was expected and they could then make the adjustment to move to the historic courtroom. He stated he was in favor of staff‘s recommendation.

Commissioner Kost stated she believed she would support the recommendation for now, at least until staff came back with more information.

By consensus, the Board accepted staff‘s recommendation that the temporary Superior Courtroom be designated the permanent Commissioners‘ meeting room and that the Historic Courthouse be used for ceremonial occasions and meetings requiring greater seating capacity.

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Chatham County commissioners review options for a new meeting room

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