Towns County Courthouse renovations on the way

News, Police & Government

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Now that the new SPLOST tax passed, Towns County’s courthouse renovation can officially begin. Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw took a moment to speak about the new project at the June county meeting.

“I want to thank the Towns County Citizens for passing the SPLOST and Freeport Tax,” said Bradshaw.

Taxes didn’t increase with the passage of SPLOST; everything remains at seven percent.

“Now we can bring our courthouse up to date, not only in looks but the function of the courthouse,” Bradshaw added.

Bradshaw explained the architect’s plans during the first regularly scheduled meeting since March.

The bulk of the money will be spent on the interior of the current courthouse. They will gut the building to bring it up to code and add an offset to the back. The entire process should take around 18 months.

“The addition on the back will be courtrooms, holding cells, a judge’s office. It will be three courtrooms – two at 120 capacity and one at 60. The one at 60 will be the probate judge,” Bradshaw explained to the room.

Bradshaw and the architects went through several rounds of drawings before deciding on the final layout. Once the architects found drawings of the original courthouse, they incorporated its style into the add-on. The concept will break up the square box look and incorporate darker brick against the light brick.

“They will gut everything out of this building – the wiring, the plumbing, the heating and air, the windows. Everything will be new, more energy-efficient, and I can get Margie and Brooke out of the closet in our office.”

The new building will also create a commissioner’s conference room.

Rendering of the renovated courthouse.

The current plan is to build the new addition first and let everyone move that building. The commissioner’s office might move into the civic center. The exact details are still to be determined. After the completion of the addition, construction crews should take another nine months to finish renovating the existing courthouse.

The process will take longer than normal, but the county is saving money because it won’t have to rent trailers, sewer, internet, etc.

Around $500,000 of SPLOST funds will go to the road department and $140,000 for the recreation department.

Commissioner Bradshaw thanked everyone for passing SPLOST and the Freeport tax exemption.

Freeport Exemption

The Freeport Tax will put Towns County on an equal footing with surrounding counties as far as job creation is concerned.

“It will help our businesses in the future for the employees to have job creation because it will save them money on their taxes on their raw materials. It does open the door for a business to start here because we’re equal to every other county and if we put on a better sales pitch, we’ll get ‘em,” Bradshaw explained.

Around 93 percent of Georgia counties have adopted a Level One Freeport Exemption, which can be set at 20, 40, 60, 80, or 100 percent of the inventory value. According to the state of Georgia, t can apply to the following types of property:

  • Inventory of goods in the process of being manufactured or produced including raw materials and partly finished goods;
  • Inventory of finished goods manufactured or produced within this State held by the manufacturer or producer for a period not to exceed 12 months;
  • Inventory of finished goods on January 1 that are stored in a warehouse, dock, or wharf which are destined for shipment outside this State for a period not to exceed 12 months;
  • Stock in trade of a fulfillment center which on January 1 are stored in the fulfillment center.

Courthouse renovation plans begin to form

Towns County Courthouse

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – As previously reported, the Towns County Courthouse, constructed in 1964, could be getting a much-needed facelift should the SPLOST referendum pass on the May 19 ballot. Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw is consulting with the architectural firm  Clark Patterson Lee who was hired to sketch the blueprints for the modernized design. The renovation cost, derived solely from SPLOST funds, is expected to amount to approximately $8 million. Because the Towns County Board of Education ESPLOST is set to expire this year, implementing a county SPLOST will not increase the current 7-percent sales tax.

Click to read: SPLOST to appear on spring ballot

Towns County Courthouse

The lower level of the aged Towns County Courthouse.

Preliminary ideas include transforming the present courtroom into additional office space while constructing a new full-sized and a smaller courtroom. “A lot of times we have court here and have to have court across the street at the civic center,” Bradshaw explained. “We’re also talking about doing a sally port because the grade of the property back here goes downhill and it’s a great place to do a basement type.” The commissioner added that holding cells for prisoners awaiting court will be installed.

“There’s many things that they’re looking at doing to make the courthouse more efficient, as far as energy-efficient goes, and safety to make it safer,” Bradshaw said. “We’ve got these (courtroom) side doors, here and here, that back in the day were fine to use. People come and go as they want but those days, unfortunately, they are gone.”

Handicap-assessable restrooms, as well as a family restroom, is also in the plans.

Towns County Courthose

The present county courtroom.

“The $8 million is what we’re looking to spend on the additions and renovation of the courthouse. They think they can do all of our needs for that plus additional parking,” Bradshaw said. The blueprints are expected to be completed in approximately five weeks, and a minimum of two County Hall meetings will be held with different renovation options. “Everything we do, we’re going to involve the public in it,” Bradshaw assured.

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