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What courthouse officials think of renovations, changes after annex opening
New counters built by inmates sit on the first floor of the Hall County Courthouse on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

With roughly double the space, Stephanie Woodard and the Hall County Solicitor’s Office have a few minor conveniences some offices may take for granted.

A bona fide break room means the days of huddling in a cramped supply room for a snack are over.

A bathroom in the office means attorneys won’t face the possibility of using the urinal next to a defendant they are prosecuting.

Rickety tables are replaced by rolling stations for holding court in the hallway.

“They made it look legal and official,” said Woodard of the rolling stations built with inmate labor.

The construction came as a result of the county reshuffling the different groups within the Green Street courthouse and moving some to the annex across Kenyon Plaza.

A Hall County inmate paints a door frame in a courtroom under construction Tuesday, March 12, 2019, on the third floor of the Hall County Courthouse. - photo by Austin Steele

Probate and Juvenile courts occupy newly renovated spaces in the annex, which allowed Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden and State Court Judge Larry Baldwin II to have their own courtrooms.

Probate Court settled in at the annex in May, and the county hosted its official open house for the annex in January.

Nix said the estimate for the courthouse renovation is $500,000.

The departure of Probate Court meant Woodard and her staff could double their space on the first floor of the courthouse.

Assistant county administrator Marty Nix said March 12 the work was nearly completed with Woodard’s office and they were hoping for a finished project in the middle of April.

“The final piece will be to finish out the judges’ chambers on the second floor and to remodel the courtrooms on the second floor,” Nix said.

One of the recent additions to Woodard’s office is a victim waiting space.

The first floor of the Hall County Courthouse now features a new holding room, pictured Tuesday, March 12, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

“It used to be they had to sit outside with their defendant,” Woodard said.

Nix and Woodard noted the extensive use of inmate labor in accomplishing the project.

“I can’t say enough about the inmates that have worked. We’ve had county and state, and they’ve been wonderful. I feed them in pie,” Woodard said.

In some instances, people who have been prosecuted by Woodard and her office returned as workers. The reunion turned to some heartwarming moments.

“He said, ‘I owe you guys an apology. You never treated me like a criminal, but I treated y’all’ — and he used a swear word. And he’s like, ‘Now I know what wonderful people you are and how kind you are.’ There have been some cool things like that,” Woodard said.

Courthouse employees work Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in a newly finished area on the first floor of the Hall County Courthouse. - photo by Austin Steele