Starting in 2014, all legal federal matters will be shipped to Asheville. The closure of the federal court in Swain County has been a prospect for more than a year, and comes as the federal government seeks to cut costs associated with maintaining far-flung properties.
Meanwhile, Swain County is eyeing the space to relieve overcrowding of its own court system.
“There are not enough courtrooms, not enough parking or offices — we’re lacking in everything,” said Swain County Manager Kevin King. “We’ve already put our name in the hat to see if we can acquire it.”
The federal building in Bryson City houses other government offices aside from the federal courtroom, from county to state to federal agencies. The county leases five other office spaces in the federal building already.
As for the soon-to-be-vacated court space, it would be offered to other federal agencies first.
“Any surplus federal property, from office furniture to buildings, we have to offer to other federal agencies first,” said Michael Caldwell, property manager with the General Services Administration office in Asheville. “We’ve made all the federal agencies within a 100-mile radius of Bryson City aware of the building.”
That includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or Bureau of Indian Affairs, or even the U.S. Marshals Service.
But if there are no federal takers, “We are in line for it,” said King. But, “I don’t know where we are in line.”
Of course, it depends on the price.
“They may come back and say, ‘We’ll give it to you for a million bucks.’ In that case we’re not gonna take it,” King said. “In January we will probably sit down and assess what we could do. It’s not a big building, but it would be good for some county services. We do think it can be used.”
King said the county contacted Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Cashiers, and asked for his support in getting the space.
Two other federal buildings in the state have been disposed of in recent years: one in Wilkesboro and the old Internal Revenue Service building in Greensboro, according to In Greensboro, the city eventually took over the IRS building, the last one disposed of by the federal government.