Historic courthouse welcomes back county offices

After two-and-a-half years of operating in temporary quarters, the big move is here.

Stacks of boxes are piled high in the hallways and offices of Haywood County workers, awaiting transfer to their new home. This weekend, they’ll be moved in a flurry of activity to the restored historic courthouse, which finally opens for business on Monday, June 29.

The renovation of the 1932 landmark into modern county offices has been much anticipated, once again consolidating many county services under one roof, bringing together departments like the Register of Deeds, Tax Office and county administration.

“I think it’s a very good example of restoring a historic landmark to modify and meet office space needs,” said County Manager David Cotton.

A ribbon-cutting for the historic courthouse will be held sometime in mid or late July to coordinate with the release of a book documenting Haywood County history, said Cotton.

County employees have, for the past few weeks, gone through the tedious process of packing up boxes of county-owned and personal items. Employees won’t actually be the ones moving the boxes — the county has hired movers to do that at a cost of $14,325 — but they’ll still have to oversee the transition.

Also making the move are hundreds of thick deed books — including the birth, marriage and death records of county residents dating back generations — make it safely to their new home in the historic courthouse. The books will be delicately vacuum-packed for preservation and moved on pallets.

The move back to the historic courthouse means the county can stop paying rent to the tune of $5,500 a month for temporary office space in the Waynesville Plaza. It will also free up significant office space in a county-owned building near K-Mart on Russ Avenue.

The county hasn’t completely rid itself of satellite office buildings, however, which still house myriad departments from planning to elections to social services. Some of those departments are eyeing the vacated space in the Russ Avenue building and making a pitch to move there.

“There will be county departments that will backfill the building,” Cotton said. “We’re still working on that, meeting with the directors that have expressed an interest in moving out there.”

There are myriad options for how county office space could be reshuffled. Cotton is compiling those to share with county commissioners at their July meeting.

The county has shelled out $363,000 for new furnishings for the historic courthouse. Each employee will receive a new office set, including a desk, credenza, storage and seating, at a cost of $2,400 per employee, Cotton said.

Employees will be able to take whatever furniture they want to keep from the Plaza location, and the rest will be auctioned off.

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