First-floor office space in downtown Greensboro often comes at a premium, but don’t tell that to Guilford County government which has let nearly one-half of the ground floor of the county’s most central building go unused for about two decades.
The Old Guilford County Court House in downtown Greensboro is the heart of Guilford County government. However, much of the ground floor has remained empty for years. Over the last five years, the county has spent millions of dollars renovating the building, cleaning it, repairing it and getting new doors and fixtures – but that hasn’t meant that the county commissioners’ office space has gotten any use.
While those offices did get some use up until about 17 years ago, even then it was minimal.
Around the turn of the century, the commissioners used to fight over who got the largest offices. However, even if a commissioner got the office he or she wanted, it was very rare that a commissioner even set foot in that office.
Over a decade ago, the Rhino Times noticed that one commissioner’s desk had an open calendar on it with some notes on it – only, the calendar was from several years earlier. And, when the commissioners’ office space was used as a waiting area for former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich before he made a speech on the governmental plaza, Gingrich left an empty glass of wine on the “receptionist’s” desk in the office area. The Rhino Times periodically checked in on the wine glass after that, and the empty glass remained on the desk for months – which indicated that even cleaning crews never stepped into the office area.
It seems as though the county could find a use for the space that’s in the center of county government activity and is directly below the main reception desk, the county manager’s office and the Clerk to the Board’s office.
Years ago, some county officials worried about the appearance of having nearly half a floor of prime space completely unused, so they moved much-beloved former Clerk to the Board Effie Varitimidis and Deputy Clerk Crystal Maurer down to the commissioner’s offices. The two hated that arrangement for a number of reasons. One was that, during early voting, there was always a line of people right outside the glass door, and people were always standing there staring in. The two women said it was like “being an animal in the zoo.”
Guilford County government has been on a property buying and building spree for the last decade and a half, and, while this large swath of space goes unused, it does add to the heating and cooling bills paid by taxpayers.
The only room on half of the floor that does get use is the meeting room called the Blue Room.
Years ago, the county published phone numbers for the commissioners’ offices, but calling those numbers just took the caller to a voice mail that was never heard. Now, the county no longer publishes a county office number for the commissioners.