Tours offer up-close look at aging courthouse

Community members were invited to get an up-close look at the status of the aging Union County Courthouse in Jonesboro early this week.

The community was invited to tour the courthouse prior to the Feb. 2 primary election in Union County.

In the primary election, voters will be asked to vote on a referendum which, if approved, would generate funding for construction of a new county courthouse.

On Feb. 2, voters will be asked to approve a 1 percent sales tax increase.

The increase would generate in the range of $900,000 to $1 million a year.

A new facility could cost in the range of $17 million, based on prelimary estimates.

A second round of tours is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25.

Some visitors were able to walk  through a narrow tunnel which connects the courthouse with a neighboring structure that is home to the offices of the Union County Sheriff's Office and the county's E911 system.

Visitors also could see overcrowded offices and storage spaces, as well as offices stuck back in the corner of the courthouse basement.

County officials and  representatives of a local committee were on hand to lead Monday's tours. The committee was established by the Union County Board of Commissioners to focus on the status, and future, of the courthouse.

Courthouse tours represent one step in an ongoing process leading up to the primary election vote – and, county officials hope, passage of the referendum.

"It is very important that this passes. Then we can move on," county commissioner Don Denny said.

County officials also have been meeting with local groups and organizations in recent weeks to discuss the status of the current courthouse, and the need for a new building.

Should the proposal be approved, then the county will move forward on selecting a site for a new courthouse. No decision has been made, except that the courthouse would be in Jonesboro, which is the county's seat of government.

The county also would have to decide what to do with the existing structure. The county would not want to keep the structure should the approval come for funding that leads to construction of a new building.

<strong>Public Meeting Scheduled</strong>

The courthouse will be the focus of a public meeting scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 28, in Anna. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Sunshine Inn community center.

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