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Renovation of Bibb County courthouse to begin in June

A $2 million restoration of the Bibb County Courthouse on Mulberry Street is scheduled to begin the weekend of June 19, the project’s manager told the Bibb Commission on Tuesday.

Chris R. Sheridan & Co. is the general contractor for the project. Work is expected to last about six months, depending on weather conditions and court schedules, said Randy Reed, project manager with the company.

During that time, workers will clean and waterproof the brick exterior; replace the windows, entrances and roof; and paint, he said. The purpose is to make the building waterproof and windproof, he said.

“It won’t look a bit different,” Reed said.

The courthouse has been in a state of disrepair for years. Each time heavy rains roll through, several areas of the courthouse flood.

The project currently is expected to come in under the $2 million budget the commission approved for the restoration. The remaining $102,000 has been put in a contingency fund to help the contractors deal with unanticipated expenses, Reed said.

“At the end of the project, if we haven’t spent the money, it will revert to the county,” he said.

Chris R. Sheridan & Co. will work with courthouse security to ensure the building stays secure during the process. Workers will be required to wear a badge and a vest, identifying that they are with the project, said Chris Sheridan Jr., the company’s president.

Restoration of the current courthouse does not mean the commission is abandoning plans to build a new justice center near the county jail, officials said. Commissioners long have said the courthouse would be used to house other offices, even if the courts move.

“That has nothing to do with renovations (to the courthouse’s) interior,” Bibb Commissioner Elmo Richardson said of the restoration work.

Later Tuesday, the selection committee charged with reviewing architects’ qualifications for the construction of a new justice center began to narrow down their choices.

The county is under court order to have a new courthouse by July 1, 2012.

The county received submissions from 23 architectural firms in response to its request for qualifications. Committee members have reviewed the submissions — many that were hundreds of pages each — and individually scored the firms.

However, because committee members scored the firms using different scales and because some scorecards were incorrect or incomplete, the total score of each firm is not a true representation of its ability, Richardson said.

As a result, each committee member will go back and list his top six firms. The group then will discuss all the firms and recommend six to the commission for interviews.

Richardson, who is charged with overseeing the committee, said he hopes to have the names of those firms at the May 19 commission meeting. He said the county hopes to finalize a firm by the first week in June.

“We need to bring this to a head as soon as we can,” he said.

The selection committee, which is made up of 12 Bibb community leaders, also debated whether its discussions should be open to the public. Some members said they don’t think they can talk openly about their choices if media is present.

However, Tuesday’s meeting remained open.

Also Tuesday, the county commission approved:

Ÿ An ordinance that adopts the state’s Abandoned Cemeteries Act. The ordinance puts in place a permitting process that dictates how abandoned cemeteries may be disturbed.

The process would require the group disturbing the graves to work with an archaeologist and give due process to descendants of the buried. A fee of up to $2,500 may be charged for the permit.

Ÿ The use of an emergency notification system in Bibb County.

The system will allow the county — and various agencies that choose to use the service — to notify residents of emergencies via a mass text message or e-mail, said Tony Rousey, Bibb’s director of information technology services.

Anyone who wants to receive the messages may sign up on the Bibb County Web site, www.co.bibb.ga.us. The only required information is an e-mail address or cell phone number and carrier.

Messages that may be sent include health, weather, fire and chemical alerts; Macon and Bibb County Neighborhood Watch notices; and school closings.

Ÿ The movement of $4.8 million of its pension fund from fixed income back into equities. The vote was 4-0, with Commissioner Bert Bivins absent. The commission last year had moved funds out of equities in the face of a downward-sliding stock market.

“Given the run in the market so far, we think it’s prudent to move back in slowly,” said Lawrence Williford of Merrill Lynch, the county’s pension manager.

The move will mean about 45 percent of the county’s pension fund is in equities, with the rest in bonds and unallocated cash. State law allows up to 60 percent to be in equities, Williford said.

The total value of the county’s pension is about $75 million, according to documents presented at the meeting.

To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 744-4345.

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