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Jackson County board OKs budget to restore building
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JEFFERSON — The Jackson County Historic Courthouse Restoration Committee has one goal in mind: To fix up the historic courthouse located in downtown Jefferson.

With the county commission’s approval, the committee will begin construction on it this year.

Earlier this month, committee member Charlotte Mealor presented the plans for renovating the structure, which was built in 1879, at a commission meeting.

At last week’s meeting, commissioners approved the restoration committee’s budget and the removal of the 1966 addition to the structure.

Funding for the committee’s budget comes from the Series 2007A revenue bonds, which also helped pay for the new Jackson County Jail and fire training facility. The budget is around $1.7 million and will pay for abatement and demolition, reconstruction and restoration of the courthouse building, with a $325,000 contingency fund factored in for unexpected costs that may occur during the process, according to supplemental agenda documents.

The historic courthouse’s 1966 addition caused some water damage and other problems that the committee plans to address quickly, Mealor said, which prompted the committee to ask the commission’s approval for removing it.

"The 1966 additions, unlike the original 1879 and 1907 additions, have no historical value, little usable space — even the restrooms would have to be completely gutted and reworked — and its removal may improve our status with granting agencies such as the National and Georgia Historic Trusts," Mealor said at the Feb. 2 meeting.

The commission also acted on the committee’s third request: To have the commission chairman "execute all future contracts that may result in the execution of the budget so long as all bidding requirements have been met," according to the agenda.

Commission Chairman Hunter Bicknell took this off the consent agenda and said he wanted to discuss its ramifications with the other commissioners.

Bicknell said the measure would lump all contracts together for approval, and it would be more consistent with board policy to vote on each contract individually as it comes in.

"This would be binding a future commission" to execute contracts with those involved in the restoration project, County Manager Darrell Hampton added.

The commissioners voted 4-0 to deny the committee’s request.