The future location of the seat of Henderson County government became a polarizing issue in 2007.

In September, Henderson County Judge David Holstein announced that after looking at several properties around Athens, the Commissioners Court had purchased an option on 44 acres of land on Loop 7. Holstein said the commissioners were in agreement that a spot on the loop would be most advantageous if the county is to undergo a much-needed expansion of its facilities.

“The piece of property the county decided upon is ideal. It is a straight line north from the county jail to this piece of property. The conduit from the property to the county jail has no traffic lights and one stop sign,” Holstein said.

Holstein said he envisions a phased migration to the new property, meeting storage space needs first, then building a courtroom with ample parking space available to jurors.

Further down the road Holstein said the county could construct a new courthouse on the loop property.

“This old courthouse that we’re in sooner or later is going to have to get remodeled and fixed,” he said. “I like it and want to keep it. The loop property is going to be sufficient for the next 100 years of Henderson County’s growth. These buildings are not going to last that long.”

The proposed purchase — and the idea of moving county facilities from the downtown Athens area — set off a storm of protest from Athens city and civic leaders opposed to any plan that might eventually lead to the relocation of courthouse functions.

The controversy culminated in a historic joint meeting of the Commiss-ioners Court, City of Athens and Athens Economic Development Corporation.

Athens Mayor Randy Daniel urged the commissioners to forgo the land purchase until an economic impact study could be conducted at no cost to the county. Daniel called for the formation of a Citizens Advisory Committee to devise a plan which would be presented by September 2008.

After hearing views from citizens and officials, the commissioners voted to extend the Nov. 30 deadline for closing on the property for 90 days giving city leaders an opportunity to present other properties for the county’s consideration.

Those 90 days are up in early 2008.

— Rich Flowers

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