by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A plan to turn the top of the Mecklenburg County courthouse into a private wildlife refuge is raising eyebrows among county officials and residents.
Sources told Channel 9 the trial court administrator held a private meeting Monday with the judges and judicial staff to unveil the project, which is estimated to cost $28,000.
Officials said the project would transform an existing 600-square-foot terrace near the judges' offices on the ninth floor into a green space and certified wildlife refuge for birds.
Trial Court Administrator Todd Nuccio confirmed that at least some of the funds would come from various line items in the county's Criminal Justice Services Department, but added additional funding could be secured from the North Carolina Wildlife Federation and various non-profit groups.
Nuccio said he was unsure if Mecklenburg County would qualify for any tax breaks as a result of the project.
Channel 9 reached out to multiple county commissioners about the plan and Pat Cotham said that it had never been discussed publicly that she is aware of.
"This was news to me. I do think green space and having birds and wildlife is always a positive thing, but it would be great if we could have more people enjoy it," Cotham said.
While the terrace area is not open to the public and reserved almost exclusively for the judges' use, Nuccio told Channel 9 they do occasionally have tours through the area for participants in the Juvenile Courts Services and that those have a positive impact on area youth.
Taxpayers like Mercedes Hardaway questioned if there were other uses for the funds, which will expire at the end of the fiscal year on July 1.
"I think it should be spent for everybody, instead of just the judges," Hardaway said.
Cotham also told Eyewitness News she had questions about the project and other potential budget priorities that could positively impact more people like fixing poor acoustics in Superior Court courtrooms.
"To me, it's very important that we fix that, so that room can be better so that justice can be served and everyone can hear all the time," Cotham said.
Nuccio said the next step will be to gauge support amongst the judges and staff.