FILE: Barren Circuit Judge John T. Alexander speaks with attorneys during a court hearing.
(BRENNAN CRAIN/WCLU NEWS)
BY BRENNAN D. CRAIN, WCLU News
GLASGOW — An effort by the Barren Fiscal Court to purchase land from the city of Glasgow failed Monday evening.
The portions of land sought included 5.098 acres along West Main Street between a Dollar General Store and the U.S. Post Office. The BCFC sought the land for the construction of a new judicial center near downtown.
Members of a project development board have deliberated for nearly two years behind closed doors regarding the acquisition of property for the new courthouse. Those conversations culminated in a recent vote by magistrates to purchase land from the city. Other deliberations with the Glasgow Water Company and Dollar General Corporation have occurred, too.
“That general area was the location that was envisioned by all of our elected leaders at the state level when they went to bat for this project,” said John T. Alexander, Barren Circuit Judge and PDB member. “The chief justice came down here, we looked at it, we walked around. Everybody agreed, principally, that that would be the general area that we needed to go.”
Alexander was given permission to speak to councilmembers after a vote was made to amend the agenda, which did not include room for any comments from the audience in attendance. After several minutes of deliberation with City Attorney Danny Basil, Mayor Harold Armstrong said he would allow Alexander to speak though he denied the original request. The Council approved the amendment.
In an unusual appearance, the judge was at the meeting alongside other members of the PDB such as District Judge Gabe Pendleton and Rich Alexander, an attorney and representative of the bar association.
Alexander provided insight into the PDB’s work and detailed why the West Main property is the desired location for a new justice center. He said as many as 12 architectural firms have been engaged to evaluate the property, which needs to meet certain standards set by the state Administrative Office of the Courts. Those firms agree the West Main area is ideal.
“We have a design in mind, at least in general broad strokes,” he said.
A member of the PDB had confirmed to WCLU News about 2.5 acres of the city’s property was needed to complete the desired acreage for the project. The judge revealed additional acreage from land owned by the Dollar General Corporation and the Glasgow Water Company comprised the other acreage.
Deliberations with the Dollar General Corporation continue, and the mayor asked about the chance of those dealings’ failure.
“I feel really, really good that it’s not going to fall apart with the Dollar Store.”
Councilmember James “Happy” Neal asked how much land the PDB needed to build the justice center, but the judge could not provide a solid answer beside his speculation that the land area along West Main Street was more than enough.
“We’re not going to take more than we need,” he said. “What we need is what we’re going to use.”
Alexander continued to make clear he was not at the meeting to suggest the councilmembers act on the sale because of a pending park project on the West Main property. He aligned with the PDB’s goal of obtaining enough property for the justice center’s construction.
Councilmembers’ perspectives varied.
Wendell Honeycutt proposed an amendment be made to the original resolution, which would allow the city to decide exactly how the money obtained from the sale is spent. Other councilmembers wanted to change the original parameters of the offer to reduce the acreage the city would sell to the county. But those amendments were not allowed, according to the city attorney.
“I think it’s a slap in the face to us because of all the work we’ve been doing to move this city in a direction,” said Joe Trigg, a councilmember. “We have a chance for a compromise.”
Honeycutt, Marlin Witcher, Terry Bunnell and Marna Kirkpatrick voted in favor of selling 5.098 acres of the city’s property along West Main Street for the judicial center project.
Supporters of a downtown park were in attendance and clapped as the vote’s failure was announced. It’s unclear if the county will amend their option-to-purchase agreement and seek fewer acres of the city’s property.
The PDB announced a special-called meeting Tuesday morning. The meeting is slated for Wednesday at 1 p.m., and the board is set to enter a closed session to again discuss property acquisition.