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No. The future use of the existing historic courthouse is still being evaluated. The long term goal is to consolidate several ACCGov departments that are currently spread out and housed in multiple buildings across the county in the existing courthouse.
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Due to inadequate safety conditions, size, and age concerns of the current courthouse facilities, and as set forth in multiple space needs reports performed for ACCGov, the current facility does not meet the needs of Athens-Clarke County nor the required Georgia Courts Security Guidelines. The new judicial center will provide much needed security and operational updates to improve the operations of ACCGov judicial functions.
The existing building at 325 East Washington Street was constructed in 1914 with the annex completed in 1989. Due to its age and size, the layout of the facility does not conform to current courthouse facility design practices. The goal is to renovate the existing courthouse at a later date to include other non-judicial functions of ACCGov.
A site for the new judicial center has not yet been selected. The project is in the first stage of the ACCGov Site Selection process now and is expected to continue until Fall 2023. The Site Selection Criteria will be used to score potential sites and ultimately select the best site for the development of the new judicial center. The site selection criteria and a survey for public input are currently posted at accgov.com/judicialcenter.
Once the site selection process is complete, the project will take approximately 36 months to complete design and construction. This timeframe includes the necessary public engagement meetings, Mayor and Commission work sessions, and Mayor and Commission approvals.
There are benefits to both a new and renovated judicial center. A new judicial center will provide state-of-the-art security and planning along with best practices for the efficient operation of the facility. Renovation of the existing courthouse would allow some of the judicial functions to remain in the existing downtown location. That being said, retrofitting the existing facility to align with modern security standards would likely be a challenge and some departments that are currently located in the courthouse would have to permanently move out.
The total project cost approved by the Mayor and Commission for the project is $76,432,000. $67,130,000 of this budget is reserved for the new judicial center project, with approximately $44 million of that budget going towards construction. $9,212,000 of the budget is planned to go towards the courthouse renovation. Please see the information included in the work session presentation posted at accgov.com/judicialcenter for a further breakdown of the budget.
Public engagement is critical to constructing a new judicial center that will efficiently and effectively serve the public. Every phase of the process will include opportunities for public input. Online surveys, public forums, and other engagement strategies will be leveraged to maximize public and stakeholder input.
Below are some of the current ways you can get involved: