Gallatin residents worried courthouse could be moved from town square

(Photo: WKRN)

GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – Honoring the history of fine furniture is a driving force at Gallatin Furniture’s vintage showroom.

Cammy Morin opened the business on the square 14 years ago.

“I love looking out over the square,” she said. “I think the courthouse is an historic site and there is a lot of history down here I can look across and see where Andrew Jackson practiced law.”

Morin along with some other Gallatin residents are worried the historic courthouse could one day no longer have court services.

In fact, Sumner County commissioners are looking into the cost effectiveness of renovating the courthouse or building a new criminal justice center elsewhere.

“A lot of people come from across the way while they are waiting to be seen so they walk around the square,” Morin said. “The square is now on fire, it is hopping.”

She continued, “People are now coming to Gallatin to see the square and to shop here.”

According to the Sumner County executive, structurally, the building is in good shape, but internally, it needs repairs to plumbing, heating and air conditioning, wiring, asbestos abatement and improvements so the building is compliant with Federal Americans with Disabilities Regulations.

“The rehabs have been cosmetic,” Sumner County Executive Anthony Holt said. “What has happened now is because of the age of the courthouse the mechanical aspect of the courthouse it is fatigued out.”

He continued, “It was built at a time when things were different, codes were different the plumbing was different so all aspect of the building need to be rehabbed.”

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

But Holt also said the history of the courthouse site and the business it brings to the town square is important.

“It would have a tremendous impact on our merchants and individuals who spent a lot of money to keep our downtown vibrant,” Holt said. “There are historic buildings down on the square, there are great eateries and businesses. Once you remove this element it has a snow ball effect.”

Earlier this year, the city of Gallatin commissioned a special census before the next scheduled Federal Census to update the population to get more state funding and be able to attract more businesses.

The special census found that Gallatin grew from 30,278 people to 34,473 in just six years. That is a 14 percent increase.

“We depend on our local merchants and our businesses,” Holt said. “Tennessee is a sales tax state and without them it is going to put a bigger burden on our tax payers and especially our property tax payers.”

Holt said he has an architect who is figuring out how much it would cost to renovate the courthouse versus build a new courthouse somewhere else.

He is in favor of renovating the current building.

“There is so much history there at that site,” he told News 2. “It’s also logistically better because of its proximity to general sessions.”

The current courthouse is just a block away from the Sumner County General Sessions courthouse, juvenile court, sheriff’s office, county jail, and a number of attorneys’ offices.

The county could require building a new criminal justice center, which would house the jail and other courts on one site.

“When you get into having to transport inmates long distances that is problematic,” Holt said. “Also, finding a site area where the public is not going to mind having a new jail and court complex will be hard.”

Holt added, “Overall the jail is not crowded we just need to continue to keep up with the maintenance and do the repairs necessary to keep it viable.”

Gallatin’s mayor Paige Brown opposes moving court operations away from the square.

“If you take the courts out of downtown Gallatin it is our heart, it is our centerpiece, and it is very important to our history,” Mayor Brown said. “I just hate that its being considered as a possibility I hope it will remain.”

An ad hoc committee is scheduled to meet on Dec. 19 at 5:30 p.m. to begin discussions about the future of the courthouse.

No deadline has been set to decide on the future of the courthouse.