ALBION — Earlier this year, one question Noble County Council members got repeatedly about the proposed county annex in downtown Albion didn’t have to do with the building or the tax impact, but instead parking.
Will the new county annex and the multiple offices going into it create a parking crunch around the courthouse square?
The answer from Noble County Highway Department Engineer Zack Smith is a pretty confident “no.”
Council President Denise Lemmon said in February the parking question is the one she’s getting the most. Although the downtown footprint isn’t changing dramatically, the proposed annex — which would be built on the same lot as the Noble County Prosecutor’s Office building after it’s torn down — will be bringing multiple offices from outlying offices into the building.
“They’re still most concerned about parking more than anything,” Lemmon said.
The plan for the annex should add about 100 spaces to the downtown inventory, Smith said. Many of those will be taken up by employees who will be working on the square instead of elsewhere, but the parking situation shouldn’t be an issue.
While outlying employees are often used to parking right next to the building, they may need to park out a little farther away, but nothing like blocks away.
Smith acknowledged there will still be times when parking is tougher to find — on criminal court days, during the last week to pay tax bills and when juries are called for trials — but those events rarely line up all at the same time.
“You’re not going to have everybody have their busiest time at the same time,” Smith said. “The parking is going to be adequate. Sometimes if it’s really busy will you have to walk a block or two, maybe?”
Noble County Coordinator Jackie Knafel noted that jury trials are the biggest problem, since the courts have to call sometimes up to 100 potential jurors.
But on slow days, there are usually parking spots available right along Jefferson Street in front of the public entrance to the courthouse so people can walk the shortest distance to the door.
The project isn’t going to create a huge surplus of parking in downtown Albion, but it’s also not going to be a daily problem, Smith concluded.
“We’re not adding 200-plus spots to downtown,” he said. “The problems that currently exist will continue to exist, but I don’t think we’re creating any additional problems.”