County may apply for brownfields agreement for new courthouse

County may apply for brownfields agreement for new courthouse
October 26
07:00 2017

Forsyth County may apply for a brownfields designation for the site of its new courthouse due to groundwater pollution found there.

The county is currently in the process of buying a vacant lot at 175 N. Chestnut St., next to the Forsyth County Government Center, as the site of the new courthouse. Plans are to build a five-story building for courtrooms on that site with another five-story building for court offices across the street on property the county already owns.

During due diligence to buy the property, soil and water testing was done. It found no soil pollution, but did find tetrachloroethene (TCE) in the groundwater.  There’s no danger of anyone being directly exposed to the water, since any building on the site would use the city’s water system. But contaminated groundwater could evaporate into vapors that may be hazardous inside a structure above it. This would require remediation.

County Property Manager Kirby Robinson told commissioners last week that staff expected to find contamination in the groundwater, which is common in downtown since it’s had so many industrial uses over the years.

“It was not unexpected to see that,” said Robinson.
County staff recommended contracting with Kilpatrick Townsend to apply for the N.C. Brownfields Program, which is a state program that defines how to make a contaminated property safe for use.

A brownfields agreement for contamination at the Bowman Gray Stadium has delayed the sale of that property from the city to Winston-Salem State University for years. Assistant County Attorney Gordon Watkins said he didn’t think the brownfield would delay courthouse construction since he expects the design phase of the project to take more than a year. The commissioners are expected to vote on the measure today.

The county is also making changes to the current Hall of Justice to help it function better during the years it’ll take to complete the new courthouse. The juvenile courtroom is currently too small. This will only get worse as it sees more cases due to the jurisdiction of juvenile court being raised from under 16 years-old to under 18 years-old.  Construction is underway to expand the courtroom using a room next to it that’s currently used as judge’s chambers. The judge’s chambers will relocate to the space occupied by the county magistrate’s office.
In turn, the magistrate’s office will be moving into the County Government Center’s first floor, in the space formally occupied by the Central Library during its renovations. The move is expected to happen around November 20 with a start date for the new location on November 27.
In addition, a courtroom for abuse, neglect and dependency cases is being built on the courthouse’s first floor in a space currently being used for storage. A new hearing room for the Clerk’s office, which currently uses courtrooms for hearings, is expected to be operational by November 1. Safe on Seventh, which provides resources for domestic violence victims, is expected to move to the ground floor the Behavioral Health Plaza in December to make room for more district attorney offices.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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