As the date nears for a meeting between concerned citizens and members of the Pulaski County Judicial Center Project Development Board, all parties seem to just want to be able to move on.

Property owners who have been told they may have to sell their homes are tired of waiting in limbo.

Board members — namely, the chairman, Pulaski Judge-executive Darrell BeShears — want to decide on a location for a future judicial center so they can move forward with their plans.

The public meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday in the fiscal courtroom at the Pulaski County Courthouse.

While some property owners in both of the judicial center’s proposed locations have indicated they would be willing to sell their downtown properties, many others don’t want to give up their homes and businesses to make way for the future $22 million project.

The most controversial proposed site takes in a swath of buildings along West Mount Vernon Street between Vine Street and South Richardson Drive, as well as several homes along Church Street from West Mount Vernon to Market Street. The majority of structures in this area are residential — and many have some historical significance. There are 21 parcels of property included in this area. So far, six parcels of property have been made available for sale in that area, although three of those parcels are all owned by the same entity.

BeShears explained yesterday afternoon that the original proposal for the West Mount Vernon Street area changed slightly after the judicial center’s architects looked at the properties in question.

Original plans were to take in the property only to the east corner of Church Street at West Mount Vernon, and to take in the former Health Department building, also known as the Wells Building, and some vacant land off Market Street.

The project architects, BeShears said, opted to take the Wells Building and the land off Market Street out of the proposal, and instead to take in several properties between Church Street and South Richardson Drive.

The second proposed site for the future judicial center contains commercial properties at the corner of South Main Street and Market Street (mainly owned by First and Farmers Bank), and another line of properties on Market Street, in the area of Rogers’ Photography. There are 10 parcels of property in this area. Two property owners in this area have informed the project development board that they are not interested in selling. First and Farmers Bank, which owns three parcels of property in the area, is expected to provide BeShears with an asking price before Monday’s meeting. Some other property owners in this area have indicated they are willing to sell.

BeShears said he was concerned that the First and Farmers Bank area might not be big enough for the 77,000 square foot judicial center, but, he said, that decision would have to be left to the architects.

The project development board is faced with the task of choosing the location for the judicial complex. The selected site must fit the board’s budget and be in compliance with the guidelines set forth by the Administrative Office of the Courts. The site must also be located in the Somerset city limits. The board will forward its site selection to the Administrative Office of the Courts for final approval.

The board’s public properties corporation has $4.95 million to spend on property acquisition.

The problem for the project development board lies in the fact that very few property owners have responded to letters which were mailed out last month, requesting that they submit asking prices for their land should their site be chosen for the project.

BeShears said he has obtained the assessed values of all properties involved from the Property Valuation Administrator’s office. However, assessed values often do not match appraised values.

“The assessed values are the only figures I have unless (the property owners) bring me an asking price,” BeShears said.

“The only thing I can do is report that to the board.”

The problem for some property owners is that they just can’t seem to place a value on a home or business they very much want to keep.

Property owner Diana Bray says she has been worrying about her future since she received her letter last month.

“I didn’t turn mine in,” Bray said of the letter, adding that she assumed that not turning in an asking price for her property would send the message that she is not interested in selling.

A single parent and recent cancer survivor, Bray runs a business, Diana’s Alterations, out of her home. Bray has already relocated her business once — and she built a new home on her property in 1993.

“I have two kids at home. They don’t know any other home,” Bray said.

“And I don’t think I’m up to relocating my business again.”

Bray plans to attend Monday’s meeting, and said she will speak if she is allowed to do so.

(A check of the property plat located in Judge BeShears’ office doesn’t indicate that any property owned by a Bray is included in the area which could potentially be torn down to make way for the center. However, Bray received a letter stating that her property was included.)

Other property owners, such as Judy Long and Brenda Popplewell, have also expressed fears that their cherished homes could be taken from them.

At least one other, Paul Henderson, an attorney whose office space could succumb to the wrecking ball, has said he doesn’t want to sell, but he realizes that if he doesn’t submit an asking price for his property, the powers that be could very well condemn it and take it anyway.

BeShears has said he would prefer to avoid the process of condemning properties, but that it isn’t out of the question. He further explained that the Judicial Center Project Development Board is not capable of condemning the properties in question. The board would have to seek permission from the county’s fiscal court to order the properties to be condemned.

“We haven’t decided yet where (the judicial center is) going to go,” BeShears said yesterday.

“Everyone seems to agree that it ought to be downtown somewhere. We don’t want to just vacate downtown. If we move to 27, it won’t help downtown any. The easy thing to do would have been to buy a piece of land on 27 or on the bypass. We could have done that in a heartbeat. Or we could have put it where the old WalMart building is. There are 500 parking spaces sitting empty there. But the people are saying to put it downtown. One man told me he wanted it to be located downtown, but ‘just don’t put it on my property.’ ... We’re trying to do the best we can to be fair and to keep everything above board. We’re trying to be open minded, and do what’s good for the community and for downtown Somerset.”

BeShears also wants the public to know that he is not solely responsible for the decisions currently being made.

“I’m doing what the board has directed me to do as its chairman. I’m not trying to do this on my own,” he said.

“And I only have one vote on the board. ... So far, the board didn’t pick the financial agent I was for, and didn’t pick the architect I was for. So I guess that shows that just because I’m the chairman, that doesn’t mean I try to persuade anybody else. I’ve lost every vote so far.”

BeShears said he wasn’t sure exactly what would take place at Monday’s meeting. He did say, however, that he expected a decision on the location of the judicial center to be made soon.

“Hopefully (the property owners) won’t have to wait long,” BeShears said.

“Hopefully we’ll make a decision this month so we can proceed.”

BeShears encourages the public to come to the open meeting. He said property owners who attend will be allowed to speak.

“But if you’re going to get up and talk, be sure you know what you’re talking about. Don’t accuse us of things we haven’t done. That’s all I ask,” he said.

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