During a study session Tuesday night, members of Bedford County Board of Commissioners' courthouse and county property committee discussed the idea of moving courts and judicial offices out of the county courthouse -- and moving the non-judicial fee offices back in.
Those offices are now across the street in rental space in the US Bank building. The county wants to stop paying rent, and some of the offices also say they need more space.
The committee asked the county's construction consultant, Bud Melson, to investigate whether the courthouse could hold all the non-judicial offices. Commissioner Phillip Vincent said any plan should leave the main second floor courtroom intact, for historical preservation purposes.
Merchants involved in the new Main Street downtown preservation program have objected to the idea of the county moving too much out of the courthouse. Committee members said leaving the non-judicial offices in the courthouse would probably satisfy them.
The committee discussed possibly moving the courts and judicial offices to the Medical Arts Building on Dover Street, behind Bedford County Medical Center. It's also possible that judicial offices could be made part of a new jail complex, depending on where that jail is built. When BCMC moves to its new location next year, the county will get control of the current BCMC building, along with the MAB, which the county is currently paying BCMC to manage. There have been differing opinions expressed about what might happen to the MAB at that time. Some doctors now renting space in the MAB have said they want to stay where they are rather than move into more expensive space near the new hospital. But the MAB is probably the most easily-renovated of any of the county's existing space, and thus is a potential site for things like county or judicial offices.
Melson said the best way to adapt the BCMC building for another use may be to tear down everything but the load-bearing concrete structure. By tearing down both the internal walls and the outside brick walls, the building could then be rebuilt to suit any purpose and given a more modern look.
The county retains ownership of BCNH, although some commissioners have said the county needs to at least look into the idea of selling it. Other commissioners strongly object to selling BCNH, however, saying the county has an obligation to provide non-profit nursing home care. BCMC's upcoming move, and the future use of the BCMC property, poses some challenges for BCNH, which is currently getting its meals from the hospital kitchen. BCNH would like to have its own kitchen, possibly built onto the back of the BCNH building so that BCNH would be self-sufficient regardless of what happens to the hospital property. The kitchen issue may affect how much the county could get for BCNH when and if it ever tried to sell the nursing home.
Wayne Schumann of BCNH discussed the use of federal Housing and Urban Development money for some of the projects being discussed. That money would be loaned to the county on extremely favorable terms -- up to 40 years payback and as low as 3 percent interest.