CONYERS - More than 175 citizens turned out for two town hall meetings to hear presentations of two options for a possible new county courthouse. Questions and comments were heard from 54 residents, some speaking at both meetings.
The town hall meetings were organized by the bond referendum committee to seek input from the public on the two courthouse options. In addition to questions and comments taken at the meetings, residents were asked to fill out and turn in a survey which included expressing which option they would prefer.
The projected cost for Option 1 is $24.9 million. It includes building a 35,518 square-foot courthouse annex on county land next to Restoration Storehouse on Parker Road to house the juvenile, magistrate and probate courts, as well as the Board of Elections, renovating the 7,592 square-foot Clay Building for the Deeds Office and public defenders, and renovating 9,000 square feet on the bottom floor of the current courthouse to improve space for the Clerk of Courts and District Attorney. Any work done on the second and third floors of the courthouse would be maintenance work only. By moving all but state and superior courts to the Parker Road annex, parking and traffic issues in Olde Town would be alleviated, with 220 spaces available at the courthouse and another 225 spaces available at Parker Road.
The projected cost for Option 2 is $78.5 million. It includes building a new 80,000 square-foot courthouse beside and behind the current courthouse for $67 million, and $11.5 million to renovate the current courthouse for county administration. Moving to part of the renovated space in the current courthouse would be the tag office and tax assessors office. The total cost also includes building a 500-space parking deck to alleviate parking issues. Public amenities such as a fountain, public plaza, playground, green space, and a covered promenade are included in the plan.
Committee co-chairs Thomas Dean and Bill Campbell stressed at both meetings that the estimated costs of both options were set at the highest of three estimates and that the actual costs could come in lower once an architect is chosen and an actual design is completed. Both options also address existing needs for better safety, security, and ADA requirements at the current courthouse.
Among the comments and concerns expressed at the meetings were:
• Option 1 - Concerns about the cost of providing security at both the courthouse annex on Parker Road and the current courthouse.
• Option 2 - Concerns about the increased traffic congestion in and around Olde Town while the new courthouse is being built.
• Option 1 - Concerns that there will be continuing problems with the portions of the current courthouse that are not renovated.
• Option 2 - Comments about the need for amenities and green space in Olde Town since the county is moving events like the summer concert series to Costley Mill Park.
• Option 1 - Concerns over having to make improvements to the current tag and tax office since it is not addressed.
• Option 2 - Comments that with more and more county services available online, that there will be no need for a parking deck.
Other comments and concerns dealt with the total cost to taxpayers for bonds issued for either of the proposed projects.
The public input will be tallied and the most preferred option will be presented to the community and to Board of Commissioners Chairman Oz Nesbitt Sr. The bond referendum committee will meet to discuss the outcome of the town hall meetings at on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. at J. P. Carr Community Center. Two community meetings are set to hear the presentation of the option chosen at on Feb. 19 Feb. 21 at J.P. Carr. Both meetings will begin at 6 p.m. The committee will make its presentation to Nesbitt at its final meeting on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. on J. P. Carr.