Hart: Telegraph site not up for courthouse spot without commission’s OK

Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart sought Monday to address concerns about the consideration of additional locations for a new courthouse, particularly the site on which The Telegraph currently sits.

When it was reported last week that The Telegraph had informally asked Hart to include the newspaper’s 120 Broadway address as a potential location, some commissioners were caught off guard. But Hart said at a news conference Monday afternoon that The Telegraph will not become part of an architectural study that includes three other locations unless commissioners agree to add it during their next meeting.

“At no time did I, or will I ever, as chairman make a decision to either include or exclude a site,” Hart said.

It was only Friday that Telegraph publisher George McCanless e-mailed a brief proposal to Hart and Bibb County Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson, laying out a price for the four-acre property.

McCanless suggested $2.1 million for the land, which is broken into three parcels. He wrote that the property currently has an assessed value of $7.26 million, but that The Telegraph is appealing that value because a large portion of the building was vacated when the newspaper stopped using its own presses and began printing in Columbus. The Telegraph suggests the proper value for the land is $4.56 million.

Hart said McCanless first broached the idea of using the The Telegraph’s location for the courthouse in January or February, but it was then only a possible idea.

Within the past month, Hart said, he and Layson met more seriously with McCanless after getting word that the publisher had contacted architects asking about including The Telegraph in their study. The architectural firms — Atlanta-based Cooper Carry and Macon-based Brittain, Thompson, Bray, Brown Inc. — are being paid about $264,000 to complete a needs assessment study and master planning services for a new courthouse.

The three sites already under official scrutiny are the parking lot at the corner of Mulberry and First streets, a spot of land on Oglethorpe Street near the county jail and the BB&T building on Mulberry Street.

Hart said the county is open to looking at still more possibilities. But, as the case will be with The Telegraph, the entire commission will have to vote before actually including them in the study, he said.

To contact writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.