Opportunity must be discussed

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Consider the Shelbyville square and immediate surrounding area.

It's a gem -- one maybe needing a little polishing in places but, nevertheless, a gem.

Whether it sparkles or fades in the future depends, to a large extent, on cooperation among its merchants (who are working hard to keep it alive) support from residents of Bedford County and a progressive outlook from elected and appointed county officials.

An online real estate auction scheduled to take place this week could make a big difference.

Several downtown merchants feel the future vitality of the Shelbyville square depends on county offices, and court activity, remaining downtown.

Those merchants strongly suggest the county should scoop up the property commonly known as the Regions Bank building, on the west side of the Shelbyville square, in an online auction being held at auction.com from Dec. 1-5. Regions Bank as well as other tenant lease space from the current owner.

Officials have said county offices remaining in the courthouse -- courtrooms, in particular -- are overcrowded. And security measures placed in many courthouses across Tennessee can't be installed locally due to age and construction issues.

A few offices have already moved away from downtown to a Dover Street office building.

Some county officials, when contacted Friday, said they'd like to keep the offices on the square, but said there are too many issues to sort through and not enough time to make a move by the auction's closing date.

Little discussion (in public meetings) has taken place, with no concrete solutions developed.

The Times-Gazette, as a downtown business itself, wholeheartedly agrees with desires to keep county business downtown.

But it's a little more complicated than simply writing a check -- and it's a decision that can't be made hastily.

It's not a quick, simple task for the county to buy a large building on short notice for several hundred thousand dollars.

Regions Bank will continue to lease its portion of the building after its sale. Is there enough remaining space to fill the county's needs? Can it be remodeled cost-effectively? What happens if the state requires the county to build a new jail? Where would it be built? Officials must answer those questions before making a decision.

The question remains, though, if the county is interested in the building, as some officials have said, why did they not move sooner? Why was it not discussed during recent public meetings? Why has there not been a special called meeting?

Our hope is that the county leaders publicly discuss a plan. Ultimately, we've put them in office to represent us and work on our behalf.

Let them know how you feel, then trust in the decisions they make on our behalf.

-- This editorial was compiled by Sadie Fowler, David Melson and John I. Carney.

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