Henry County commissioners next meet on Tuesday, April 6, at 9 am. On the agenda is consideration to move forward with a request for proposals (RFP) to relocate all judicial functions to 143 Henry Parkway. The site address is presently Red Hawk Park. The project would construct a new courthouse.
Update: commissioners unanimously approved to move forward with relocating all court services to Henry Parkway. The first step is to release an RFP to hire an architect / engineer to design the new courthouse.
The question whether to move court services off the historic McDonough Square has been debated for several years. It’s a decision many metro communities have faced as they grow in population. There’s no consensus either. Metro counties are split between building a new courthouse outside of town i.e. Clayton and Fayette Counties, and expanding court services at the historic location, such as Cobb and Fulton Counties.
County staff have reviewed both the current judicial site on the square and Henry Parkway. When considering the need for new space and to consolidate courts into one building, they are recommending the board proceed forward with a new courthouse.
In a presentation uploaded before Tuesday’s meeting, a list of construction factors are presented for the board to consider. They include the following:
- Available acreage limits building square footage
- Construction noise during court activities
- No available space for a new jail
- Increased traffic in and around town square
- Limited future expansion options
- Added inmate transport needs
- 19.5 acres of county-owned property
- No disruption to court services during construction
- Available space for a new jail
- Location allows ease of access
- Site allows for future expansion options
- Reduced inmate transport needs
- Site allows one centralized complex
If Henry County moves forward with building a new courthouse, then the county’s first steps would be hiring a project consultant and architect. The project would include a new judicial building — likely similar in scale to the Clayton County Courthouse — and parking decks. There’s also the option for a new jail to allow for interconnected buildings.
Construction costs for the project would almost certainly exceed $100 million dollars. There’s few other projects to provide a comparison. In one example, the new Georgia Judicial Center built in downtown Atlanta cost the state $130 million. The building houses the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
Finally, Henry County must develop a financing plan for the project. County Manager Cheri Hobson-Matthews stated she does not envision the board asking the voters for funds. Options that allow bonding, but do not require a voter referendum to approve them include the urban redevelopment agency and governmental services authority. Although voters do not have to approve the bonds, the county would still be required to pay them back through general fund.
Historic Courthouse Renovations
Following the opening of a new courthouse, county staff recommends county departments move into the present-day court space. Both the historic courthouse and judicial center would see renovations.
The historic courthouse would house the following:
- Building Department
- DOT Administration
- Fire Inspections
- Planning & Zoning
- Stormwater Administration
- Transit Administration
The judicial center would house the following:
- Board of Commissioners
- County Attorney
- County Manager
- Finance, to include budget and purchasing.
- Human Resources
- Risk Management
- Tax Assessor’s
- Tax Commissioner, to include motor vehicle and property tax offices.
Moving county staff into the courthouse space would make use of the existing buildings, and ensure some county services remain in the town square. The move would happen after all court services move into the new courthouse.
County staff estimate design work to last one year for the project, followed by at least two years for construction. Because of building renovations at the historic courthouse afterwards, it is likely a 3-5 year project to 1) design and build a new courthouse, 2) relocate all court services to the new building, and 3) relocate county departments to the historic courthouse and judicial center.
Featured image shows historic Henry County courthouse. Photo credit Clayton Carte. This article was updated following the April 6, 2021 board meeting.
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