The Nash County Board of Commissioners learned more last week about the progress of the expansion of the Nash County Detention Center, including the status of a proposal to close Elm Street in Nashville to accommodate the expansion.
At a meeting Oct. 5, county Director of Public Utilities and Facilities Jonathan Boone said Moseley Architects has completed conceptual design and is working on design development plans to be submitted to state and local agencies for review and approval in January 2021.
“Assuming an eight-to-10 week turnaround on project reviews, the project is expected to be bid in April 2021 and we anticipate that the project will be awarded by county commissioners in May 2021,” Boone said. “We are looking at a construction period of about 18 months, with (an) anticipated completion date of November 2022.”
The major focus of the expansion as of now is working with the Town of Nashville to take over a portion of Elm Street to allow for the expansion, Boone said.
“We discovered as we were working on the conceptual design of the project, as you are probably well aware, that real estate is precious on the block where the courthouse and jail are located,” Boone told commissioners. “And the addition proposed in the northwest quadrant that increases the capacity by 94 beds consumes every inch of available real estate we have to the point that the building itself will be located to within roughly five feet of the curb on Elm Street at the corner of Drake and Elm.”
Boone said he met with the Nashville Town Board at the end of September to ask them to consider closing a portion of Elm Street between Court and Drake streets. Elm Street extends behind the detention center, the old courthouse building, the new courthouse building and the Nash County Administration Building.
“We received some feedback from the board on this issue, and we have since responded to that,” Boone said. “Based on that feedback, we are actually looking at expanding our request to close Elm Street from Drake Street to the west to Boddie Street, which is the street between the jail and the administration building.”
Nashville Town Manager Randy Lansing said in an interview Monday the town is willing to work with Nash County on the issue, but some council members have concerns about the current proposal.
“The current plan only shuts down a portion of Elm Street behind the detention center. The concern is that traffic heading west down Elm Street from North Boddie Street would have to go north into a residential neighborhood and then go down and around,” Lansing said.
That road is just 22 feet wide and generally has cars parked on the side, Lansing said.
The town council members said they would consider accepting that proposal on one condition, Lansing said.
“The council wants Nash County to relocate Elm Street at that point through their own property and back to Drake Street. But because of the cost of constructing that new road, the county doesn’t necessarily want to do that,” Lansing said.
Lansing confirmed that county administrators have come back to him with a second proposal that actually would close more of Elm Street.
“The second proposal would close Elm Street at North Boddie Street. Then when traffic comes west on Elm Street, it could be diverted south toward Washington Street. Only those people who live in or have business in that neighborhood would then go north,” Lansing said.
Lansing said he is not certain how town council members will respond to the new proposal, which will be presented to the council on Oct. 28.
The town council will then have to vote on that proposal at a board meeting. Because of required announcements of a public hearing on the issue, the earliest time the Nashville council could approve the decision would be at the December council meeting.
Lansing said that Elm Street has more traffic than he expected.
“We actually did a traffic study, and we counted 403 vehicles on that portion of Elm Street in a 24-hour period. But when I told (County Manager) Zee (Lamb) and Jonathan about that they commented that about 398 of those were probably Nash County employee vehicles because of the parking lots in that area. And that is probably true.”
The town holds the right of way to Elm Street but all the property on either side of the street in that area is owned by the county. Lansing said he does not think the county will be offering any financial consideration for the right of way.
“I threw out that idea to Zee and Robbie, and I got smiles and chuckles in response,” Lansing said. “I don’t know how the town acquired the right of way in 1840, but they likely did not incur any cost in acquiring it.”
Lansing said the town council is willing to work with the county, but it also is looking out for the best interests of Nashville residents.
“The council members have spoken and are willing to work with the county on this project because we see that the jail expansion is a project of necessity,” Lansing said. “But some of them are concerned about closure of the street under the current proposal.”