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THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2007
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Courthouse poised to get more parking

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com 340-2437

Around midday at the Morgan County Courthouse a taxpayer is trying to get to the probate office.

After circling the front and back parking areas and waiting 15 minutes, he gets relief as someone exits the courthouse and frees a parking space.

Across the street a fenced area, where inmates used to pace, is vacant. Three or four county patrol vehicles are parked in the rear of the area, which initially was a parking lot.

The fence is topped with razor wire; it's not a pleasant view.

County commissioners say they plan to relieve some of the parking congestion and the old inmate recreation yard could be instrumental in doing so.

District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark, also chairman pro tem, said his original thoughts were to demolish the old jail annex that's next to the former recreation yard on Davis Street Northeast and make a parking lot.

"That's something we need to look at because it's not being used now," Clark said. "We could tear it down and use the whole thing for parking. Although we haven't talked about it lately, the plan was to come up with parking for employees. I'm in favor of opening up all the parking we can."

District 4 Commissioner Stacy George said he wants the public to have first access to parking close to the courthouse.

"I think it's awful that the public has to look and wait for parking spaces," said George. "We need to have employees parking farther away and leave the space closest to the courthouse for visitors."

District 2 Commissioner Ken Livingston has the same idea.

"I need more information on it, but I would be in favor of doing something to improve parking around the courthouse," said Livingston. "One thing we might look at is fixing something like that for employees to park in instead of close to the facility."

He said the old patrol cars could be removed and placed elsewhere.

District 3 Commissioner Kevin Murphy agreed that the courthouse needs another parking area.

"We definitely need more parking," said Murphy. "If we need to open the fenced area, I don't have a problem with it. A lot of people who come to the courthouse are elderly. They may not qualify for handicap parking and have to walk across the road and that's dangerous. I would be for doing whatever we can to provide more parking."

Before 2001, the fenced area was a parking lot.

To comply with a federal court order, county officials made it a recreation yard for inmates.

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