Wilmington City Council approves plans for new juvenile court facility, hears updates on projects

Wilmington City Council approves plans for new juvenile court facility, hears updates on projects

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The streetscape on North Fourth Street will be changing thanks to an effort to expand the facilities of the New Hanover County juvenile court system.

Wilmington City Council approved a special use permit Tuesday night to allow for a new, three-story building to replace the existing juvenile court building.

The new structure would be 38,455 square feet in size, space that county representatives said the facility needs to accommodate for an increase in cases the agency will see thanks to the new Raise the Age law that goes into effect later this year.

According to that new law, individuals who are 16 and 17 years old will go through the juvenile court system rather than being tried as adults for most offenses.

While the law doesn’t go into effect until Dec. 1, representatives with the county said the juvenile facility on North Fourth Street is operating above capacity for the space.

Council member Neil Anderson questioned the county about the design of the building, given the property is within the historic district.

City staff said the Wilmington Historic Preservation Commission had signed off on the project.

County representatives said the project is scheduled to start construction this summer with an expected completion date of December 2020 or January 2021.

Rail realignment

Council members also heard an update from former council member Laura Padgett about the status of the city’s rail realignment effort.

Padgett, who is the project coordinator, said she wanted council members to know progress is being made, even if things have seemed quiet over the past few months.

Thanks to information from Senator Thom Tillis’ office, as well as other sources, Padgett said the city should hear back about a federal grant proposal in the next two or three weeks.

Padgett said the feasibility study originally projected Wilmington’s growth, as well as trends in the shipping industry, would call for the changes by 2040.

Now, she said, with the progress that is being made and the growth Wilmington has seen over the last five to 10 years, 2030 may be a better goal.

“This project is really going to be needed sooner rather than later, and there’s no reason that it can’t be built as a public-private partnership over the next few years," she said.

The next steps, Padgett said, will be to go through the Environmental Protection Agency’s required impact analysis. While there won’t be any major disruptions to the environment, Padgett said like any construction project, there will be some.

She estimates that process will take two or three years.

Then, she said, the goal would be to complete 20% to 30% of the engineering work, so the team has a strong “packet” to present to potential investors.

Budget

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council held formal public hearings on the fiscal year 2020 budget.

No new property taxes are being called for, city staff said, and there aren’t any major interruptions in services proposed.

However, the budget proposes a roughly 18% increase in the price to play a round of golf at the Wilmington Municipal Course, something staunchly opposed by three citizens who spoke during the public hearing.

Councilman Charlie Rivenbark asked city staff to bring more information about the muni enterprise fund to Friday’s work session so they can better understand what led to these increases.

The budget will be voted on during meetings in June.

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