Construction of Bibbs juvenile justice center entering next phase
Bibb County officials celebrated another milestone Tuesday morning on the road to completing the long-anticipated Thomas Jackson Juvenile Justice Center.
At the centers construction site at the corner of Second and Oglethorpe streets in downtown Macon, county leaders held a topping out ceremony, a long-standing tradition in the construction industry that usually commemorates the end of one phase of construction and the beginning of another. Currently, the buildings frame is being put in place, and the construction of its outer walls is expected to begin next week.
Officials from the city and county, law enforcement, community organizations and the construction team signed a white I-beam that featured an American flag at one end and a small tree at the other. The tree symbolizes the American Indian philosophy that no man is higher than a tree.
Commission Chairman Sam Hart said the plan is to turn the center and neighboring properties into a large campus that will try to keep the countys youth off the criminal path.
Im glad to see its finally coming to fruition, said Hart, who noted that talks for a juvenile justice center have been going on for at least 10 years.
The $7 million center, being paid for by special purpose local option sales tax money, should open in the second half of 2014 and will serve as home to the countys Juvenile Courts, as well as support systems designed to help reduce recidivism among local youths.
If you had not voted that one penny in, this would not have been possible, Hart told dozens of people in attendance.
Thomas Matthews, chief Juvenile Court judge for the county, said in the current arrangement Juvenile Court is in the Bibb County Courthouse, while many necessary support agencies -- including the Department of Family and Children Services, the health department and the Bibb County school system -- are located in other parts of town.
Were a system with limited resources, utilizing them the best we can, he said. Well be able to do the job better. Well be able to provide safety for the public and more hope for our children. The way we have it now, (other services) are elsewhere. ... Well be able to effectively work through issues (in the new center).
Warren Selby, president of Warren Associates Inc., which is building the facility, said construction has been slowed by excessive rain this summer, but his crews are still on track to complete the building in the next 12 months. Selby said it would take about 30 days to move the court and the support offices into the building, meaning the center could be opened by September 2014.
Once it opens, Matthews said, the new center should have an immediate impact on the community.
The penny tax will never be put to better use, he said. We have to help the children.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.