By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer
Commissioners on the Cumberland County Building and Grounds Committee have authorized the county mayor to research either putting the old county health department building up for sale or leasing the facility.
The committee wants Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. to report back with the options and information he gathers.
The decision was made after officials with the Cumberland County Election Commission approached the committee, requesting the county allowing them to move into the facility for more space.
"We are only able to put up eight machines for early voting and if we had a bigger space, we could put up at least 15 or more and, it would be more convenient for handicapped and elderly voters," Suzanne Smith, administrator of elections, said.
Harry Sabine, 1st District commissioner, said he thought maybe the election commission could just use the old health department facility until December 2014, after the 2014 elections.
He made a motion to do so, but it died for lack of support.
"I don't think the area would accommodate the election commission too well for what it needs. It's divided into several offices and it's really like a giant doctor's office. It would need a major renovation for them and it would be expensive just to have them over there for a year. There is an area in the (Community) Complex where they could use that might be better suited," Carey said.
"How many square feet do you need?" 9th District Commissioner Carmin Lynch asked.
Election officials were unsure of an exact number.
"There's all kinds of options. We could move the tax assessor or trustee and that would free up the whole (Milo Lemert) building. We've got prime space in here (the Cumberland County Courthouse) that we are using for files," Lynch said.
"Have you thought about leasing a building, or space for early voting?" 3rd District Commissioner Johnny Presley asked.
"We need to look at having a study of all the space for all the county offices and come up with some strategic planning," Joe Koester, 5th District commissioner, said.
Sonya Rimmer, 8th District commissioner and building and grounds committee chairman, said she didn't think the building and grounds committee was the place to decide where county offices moved.
"I thought that fell under the county mayor," Rimmer said.
"My main concern is making it easier on the voter," Smith said.
Smith hopes to get enough space to house the election commission offices, storage for voting machines and files and area to service the machines and adequate space for early voting.
Lynch then made the motion to have Carey research the old health department facility and report back to the committee.
The motion passed in a 6-2 vote.
Voting in favor were commissioners Caroline Knight, 2nd District; Presley; Charles Seiber, 4th District; Larry Allen, 6th District; Roy Turner, 7th District; and Lynch.
Voting against the motion were Sabine and Koester.