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Hall commission aims for $1.5 million budget for courthouse annex renovations
Chairman Richard Mecum wants flexibility to spend more
Jeff Stowe 2013
Jeff Stowe

Hall County Commission Chairman Richard Mecum said he and the other commissioners are trying to walk the difficult line of ensuring security while keeping prices down.

The discussions of efficiency and efficacy swirl as sections from the Hall County Courthouse hope to move into the courthouse annex.

Juvenile Court and Probate Court are currently expected to move into the ’76 courthouse building, a shift that will free up space for the current establishment on Green Street.

“The difficulty is that the ’76 courthouse was never really designed for the kind of security that is needed in today’s world,” Mecum said.

Mecum, a former Hall County sheriff, wanted to keep some of the planning and budgeting a bit more open than the goalpost of $1.5 million. The architect group selected is the Sizemore Group out of Atlanta.

“I don’t want to hamper him at all,” Mecum said. “I’d like to see the security ideas that he has.”

Though Mecum said the architect is aware of the $1.5 million number, the other commissioners voiced their concerns to keep the designs in line with the budget.

“When you’re getting an architect, you can’t just say I want a 2,000-square-foot house, because one architect may put crown molding and all these things that make it a $500,000 house,” commissioner Jeff Stowe said.

The concern for Stowe and the other commissioners, he said, would be wasting money on designs that would be unattainable.

“With some inmate labor and some things, the design can be a little more than $1.5 million, but we want to give the architect an idea of what our ballpark budget is,” he said.

Commissioner Scott Gibbs echoed Stowe’s comments, adding that he wants to keep safety and functionality as the main goals while in line with the budget.

“We’ve got to give them some type of restraints to work towards to try and get everything we need safety-wise and need-wise,” Gibbs said. “I can want the finest there is, but I can’t afford but what I can afford.”

The main security concerns, Mecum said, are the safe and separated movement of inmates and judges in and out of the building. In addition, accessibility for the handicapped is not up to the latest standards.

“You don’t want to cut corners on security,” Mecum said. “You can’t afford it.”

Mecum said he, the architect and courthouse officials are planning to discuss possible designs toward the end of July. No estimated date for completion has been set, according to the commissioners.

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