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Renovations set to begin on Bibb County Courthouse; old Sears project nearing completion

Flooring installer Shawn Allen puts cove base around the floor of an interior office at the former Sears building at the corner of Third Street and Riverside Drive. The building will be the Bibb County Sheriff's Office building.
Flooring installer Shawn Allen puts cove base around the floor of an interior office at the former Sears building at the corner of Third Street and Riverside Drive. The building will be the Bibb County Sheriff's Office building. wmarshall@macon.com

Construction is set to begin this week to renovate the Bibb County Courthouse and the Grand Building in advance of more office relocations that began last year.

Meanwhile, workers expect to finish renovating the former Sears building at the corner of Third Street and Riverside Drive late this year, paving the way for Bibb County deputies to move into what will become the sheriff’s downtown annex.

Vacancies were created in the courthouse last year with Juvenile Court’s move to a new building on Oglethorpe Street and the county commission’s shift to the Macon-Bibb County Government Center, formerly known as City Hall.

Warren Selby Jr., president of Warren Associates, said his workers will start in the two vacant areas first.

The work follows more than a year of discussion about needs for space in the building, said Chris Floore, a Macon-Bibb spokesman.

It also comes on the heels of a preconstruction phase that involved workers studying the building and confirming what’s needed, said Clay Murphey, the manager for sales-tax-funded projects.

“The building has been modified so many times, ... there’s nobody who knows where everything is,” he said. “You’ve got (electrical) panels in places where nobody knows where the breaker serves.”

Asbestos testing also has been performed, he said.

The overall project is estimated to last another 14 to 16 months, depending on court scheduling, with work ranging from painting and new flooring to electrical upgrades in some areas and walls being demolished and new partitions put up, Selby said.

Work may be delayed at times if construction conflicts with the security needs during trials, Sheriff David Davis said.

“The first job of a courthouse is the courts,” he said. “We do have our duty to protect the judges and the jurors and the people that are coming to court.”

Bob Brown, architect for the project, said the State Court Solicitor’s Office is set to move into Juvenile Court’s former area on the courthouse’s top floor, creating new space in the solicitor’s old quarters for a new State Court courtroom and judges chambers.

With those chambers moving out of the State Court Clerk’s Office, clerks will have more space, Brown said.

Early work also is scheduled to begin in the commissioners’ now vacant space on the fourth floor to prepare it for Bibb County’s Magistrate and Civil courts.

The Magistrate and Civil courts now do business on the ground floor.

Former human resources offices are slated to morph into a new jury assembly room, one double the size of the one now used.

Brown said the new assembly room also will have audio/video equipment installed for occasions when the old jury assembly room may still be needed to seat an overflow crowd.

About $2.7 in funds from sales taxes have been allocated for work on the fourth and fifth floors, Floore said. A budget for work on the first and second floors hasn’t yet been settled.

The tax commissioner’s space on the second floor -- vacated last year when the office moved to the former Capital City Bank building on Third Street -- will be renovated to move Probate Court’s marriage and firearms office from its current first floor location. The main Probate Court offices are across the hall from the space, Brown said.

Selby said plans still are being made for the first floor, which one day will host Municipal Court offices now located at the Government Center.

Work on the former Sears building is on track for completion by the end of the year, with a possible move-in date for deputies in early 2016, Selby said.

Murphey said the project is bond-funded, with $2.78 million allocated for the first floor. Final figures for the second floor haven’t yet been tallied, Floore said.

Once finished, the sheriff’s office’s Central Records Division and detectives who handle violent crimes will move to the building from their current offices in and adjacent to the Government Center.

Property detectives and the drug and gangs units also will move in, as will components of the traffic unit and the downtown precinct.

With a similarly timed move for the Internal Affairs unit to the jail complex, all sheriff’s office personnel will vacate the former Willie C. Hill annex building, Davis said.

Detectives will be under one roof for the first time in more than a decade.

State Court probation officers already are working out of a building in the former Sears complex.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398 or find her on Twitter@awomackmacon.

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