Madison County Commissioners look to move some county offices

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - County leaders took a step Wednesday to take a closer look at a prime piece of property.

The goal? To move some county offices out of the crowded courthouse to relieve parking and other congestion issues.

The commissioners voted to get a letter of intent to the owners of the old Toys R Us off North Memorial Parkway to see if county offices can be housed there.

"We're trying to find out if this building is sufficient to meet the needs of what needs to be done," said Commission Chairman Dale Strong.

Strong added that the commission had been looking at a series of properties for more than 2 years. While most commissioners called the location a win-win, the vote wasn't unanimous.

"I don't know what other options were considered," said Roger Jones. "I don't know whether this is what's best for the county."

The letter would let county leaders evaluate the 47,000 square feet of available space. Commissioners say if it passes their test, it would lessen the courthouse load and help the area.

"You're stabilizing all those businesses on that corner by bringing in additional traffic," said Commissioner Bob Harrison.

The property shares a building with a Books A Million and shares the plaza with Costco and other businesses.

The courthouse was built in the 1960s and the population, case load and parking demands have grown a lot since then.

Strong pointed out that the county had a population has quadrupled since the construction of the courthouse, which has two empty floors that are not up to code, as well as a poor parking situation for all the business handled there.

The letter of intent would go to the owners of the property to allow experts to evaluate everything from the parking, roofing, power supply, to the structural integrity of the building.

"We can back out of it if we need to but we can move forward if it meets our criteria," said Commissioner Phil Vandiver.

"We need something central to the county that everyone can get to, on a major thoroughfare with easy access," said Commissioner Phil Riddick.

Moving the offices would also bring money into the county, according to Commissioner Harrison. He says that some of the departments that would be moved have money in their budget for rent. That money is unused because they are in the courthouse. Should they be moved, that money would be paid to the county to help fund the purchase of the new property.

Additionally, providing the letter of intent would prevent any other possible buyers from taking the property while county leaders consider it.

The Probate Judge's Office, Tax Assessor, Tax Collector, License Director's Office, and Sales Tax Department are among those likely to be relocated to a private property should the county acquire one.

Experts would evaluate and appraise the property before a purchase is made.

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