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McDowell Commissioners agree on new uses for former Kirksey Funeral Home
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McDowell Commissioners agree on new uses for former Kirksey Funeral Home

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On Monday, the McDowell County Board of Commissioners decided they will hold their regular meetings in the former Kirksey Funeral Home building in downtown Marion and also make it the new location for the county manager’s office.

Last month, the commissioners agreed to purchase the former Kirksey Funeral Home building at 69 N. Main St. for $490,000. This is a cash purchase and it will not be financed. The upper level has 6,742 square feet while the lower level that opens to the city of Marion’s parking lot has 4,356 square feet.

During their third Monday meeting, county officials talked again about what they want to do with the building. County Manager Ashley Wooten reported to the commissioners that the closing on the purchase will be concluded Wednesday.

Architect Chuck Hamrick of the Holland & Hamrick firm will again examine the former funeral home next week and come back with drawings about how it can be renovated for county government purposes. Hamrick and county officials have tried unsuccessfully to find the original blueprints for this building.

“We’ve exhausted City Hall, contractors and hit dead ends,” said Wooten.

But the commissioners already have in mind what they want to do with it. Commission Chairman David Walker said he’s previously talked with Vice Chairman Tony Brown and they like the idea of using the former funeral home’s chapel as the new location for the commission meetings. County administration, including Wooten’s office, will move out of the lower level of the Senior Center and have a new home in the former Kirksey structure. This would put county government on Main Street and in the center of the downtown and closer to the Marion City Hall.

“You like that building,” said Walker to Wooten. “Our architect really likes that building.”

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After a discussion, the commissioners voted to move the county administration into the former funeral home and start holding their meetings in the old chapel, after renovations are completed. Other county offices could move in there, too.

In a similar matter, the commissioners agreed to move the probation and parole office, now on State Street, into the second floor of the County Administration Building.

In other business, the commissioners heard an update from Social Services Director Lisa Sprouse. Walker and the other commissioners commended the quick thinking of Sprouse and DSS employee Cindy Reel in response to an incident Friday afternoon when a nearby store owner confronted four suspects trying to cash counterfeit checks and then chased them outside with a handgun. This incident forced the DSS office on East Court Street to go on lockdown.

Sprouse told the commissioners that her agency needs active shooting training. “The increase in mental illness in our county is on the rise,” she added.

The commissioners said that either Sheriff Ricky Buchanan or Police Chief Allen Lawrence could give advice to DSS about the kind of training and security measures that are needed.

In other business, the McDowell County Commissioners:

• Talked the disposal of equipment from the former Foothills Pilot Plant. Some of this equipment could go to the Foothills Food Hub while other equipment specific for the processing of poultry and other small meats could be sold to a company in that business.

• Approved new shoreline permit fees that are created as a result of the new unified Lake James ordinance.

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