GAINESVILLE – Assistant Hall County Administrator Marty Nix presented the SPLOST VII Citizen Review Committee an update on the courthouse annex renovation project underway in downtown Gainesville.
Nix made his presentation before the committee Tuesday afternoon in the massive parking bay of Hall County Fire Station #16 on Shirley Road.
Nix pointed out that the project is funded almost exclusively with SPLOST VI revenues; however, some SPLOST VII money had been allocated since the project began in order to provide energy upgrades to the lighting system.
Nix reminded committee members that the reason for the renovation is to move all non-jury courts (Probate, Juvenile, i.e.) out of the crowded main courthouse and into the annex. “We don’t have any juries that will be reporting to the courthouse annex.”
And demand for space in the current courthouse will continue to grow as the district opens a fifth Superior Court (House Bill 138) for the Northeastern Judicial Circuit covering Hall and Dawson counties.
He also said the effort was proof that Hall County could serve as its own general contractor for a project of this size and save a lot of money in doing so.
“The budget at market (is) close to $4-million and we have a budget of $2.5-million,” Nix explained regarding the need for the county to find a way to save money. “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
“The key is…we had to know what our resources were within the county,” Nix said. “We know we have inmates (for labor), we have equipment; we have resources that we can pull from that would lessen the cost than if we had to go out to market.”
As an example Nix mentioned the cost in building judges’ benches. “When we started looking at trying to do the millwork for a judge’s bench, we couldn’t even get anybody to respond to the bid.”
But a solution was found not far away and at a huge cost saving, Nix said.
“At the old correctional institution…we put in a mill shop, a cabinet shop…and found a master craftsman…he’s got an inmate crew now, and what he’s doing is building judges’ benches.”
“We’re saving thousands of dollars by making our own cabinets, our own millwork, and we’re using inmate labor.”
Nix also cited examples of buying supplies from big-box stores in order to save money, and buying carpet for the annex (the result of a large mis-order involving an unspecified buyer) from a vendor offering it at “pennies on the dollar.”
Nix credited inmate labor as providing the bulk of the savings for the renovation while offering career training opportunities for the corrections system.
“One of the incentives that they (prisoners) get is most prisoners enjoy getting out and doing the work…and a lot of these prisoners are learning a trade…a skill they’ll be able to use. We never have any issues with prisoners not wanting to work.”
Nix said another major challenge facing the renovation was that the 1976-vintage annex did not have a fire suppression, or sprinkler, system. That alone meant demolition of most interior walls and other surfaces.
“It was around $260,000 just to sprinkle that building.”
Nix said he expected the work to be completed over the next two months. “We hope to have everything done and get it all wrapped up by April 2nd. “Nix said.
If that happens, Nix concluded, the various affected courts will begin their move from the crowded main courthouse into the new complex immediately.