Bibb County is investigating whether the offices on the county courthouse’s first floor should be moved.
Commissioners on Tuesday tasked Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson with probing options since the courthouse flooded last month. A Probate Court office was flooded with apparent rainwater, while sewage reportedly backed up through a toilet next to the Information Technology department.
Building and Properties Director Sam Kitchens told commissioners that drainage problems start away from the courthouse and leave no place for the water to go.
“My personal opinion is the stormwater drainage in downtown Macon cannot handle an influx of the amount of rain we had,” Kitchens said. “If all of the drains are stopped up outside of our building, it doesn’t matter if you pump it out of the building into the street.”
Layson said before he left Tuesday’s meeting he’d come up with 15 to 20 questions that had to be addressed. Among them: If probate, magistrate and civil court offices need to move from the first floor, would they use courtrooms in the existing building and try to work from two areas? Or would they need a separate courtroom, and the necessary security, in a different building?
Commissioners also probably would weigh the cost of renovations and rent against the risks of remaining in a building that floods. Flooding in the Information Technology department in particular could be expensive and could “shut down the operation of the county,” Layson warned.
The county has some vacant space — primarily in the old Virgil Powers School and a former Baptist Association building, both near the jail.
But the old school doesn’t meet accessibility standards, and the Baptist Association building isn’t nearly big enough to accommodate all the offices.
The questions come less than two months after voters shot down a special purpose local option sales tax, which would have paid for a new courthouse and the renovation of the existing courthouse that would be used for county offices. The tax also would have put money into stormwater improvements across Bibb County.
The courthouse’s first floor dates to an earlier incarnation of the building, from 1870.
Probate Court Judge Bill Self told commissioners he might be able to reduce his staff in a move to a different space. His office is now split on two floors.
Self said an employee had an idea about building a dam inside the building, which ultimately was implemented. A former break room and a photocopier area are now blocked off behind a door and a short wall that looks like a step.
Separately Tuesday, county commissioners:
n said they wanted to get Hartley Bridge Road improvements to accommodate school traffic and growth from new development. They’re planning a $35,000 improvement near Rutland middle and high schools and will try to put a review of the road on a regional Transportation Improvement Plan.
n said they would reconsider their mission and vision statements.
n talked about work moving along on a Lake Tobesofkee master plan. Consultants plan to interview people on their ideas for the lake later this month, and a mountain bicycle group is building a network of trails at Arrowhead Park.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.