Officials pleased with progress of Bibb juvenile justice center

pramati@macon.comDecember 10, 2013 

As local officials toured Macon-Bibb County’s new juvenile justice center Tuesday, they got two bits of good news: The building is scheduled to open on time, and the total cost may be slightly under budget.

That was the report that contractor Warren Selby of Warren and Associates gave members of the Macon City Council, Bibb County Commission and the oversight committee for the 2011 penny sales tax that’s paying for the project.

“Schedule-wise, we’re right where we need to be,” Selby said. “Budget-wise, I’d say we’re about the same. We’re staying on budget and right now have a little contingency money.”

The new Thomas Jackson Juvenile Justice Center is scheduled to open by about July 1, 2014. It will not only house the juvenile justice courtrooms but various social services designed to help at-risk youths stay out of the criminal justice system through diversionary programs.

“It’s going to alleviate the problems with Juvenile Court,” Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said. “It will pool together the people who can work collaboratively and get (rid of) some of the problems we’ve had with juveniles.”

The 25,000-square-foot court facility will cost $7 million total, including land acquisition, furniture and equipment.

Selby and architect Bob Brown led a tour through the now-skeletal structure, pointing out the various amenities and explaining how the building will be secured. There’s only one public entrance, which will have a security station, and a series of locks and lights will ensure that inmates can’t leave the holding area and interact with a judge or staff member while entering one of two main courtrooms. Selby said the locking system is similar to what’s used in the Bibb County jail.

In addition, the property will have a secured parking lot.

Selby said construction will finish in late May or early June, followed by moving in furniture and equipment. The center will open on or after July 1 to coincide with the new fiscal year.

“I’m extremely pleased,” said Bibb County Commissioner Gary Bechtel, who also is a commissioner-elect for the merged city and county government. “(The construction team is) continuing to do an amazing job. ... It’s going to meet the very urgent need to consolidate juvenile justice into one location and free up space in the (Bibb County) Courthouse.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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