County would pay $325K per year for Justice Center under financing plan

Clay County supervisors put $260,000 into a fund in the budget that took effect Oct. 1 as a first step in preparing for the project that will turn the old 25,000-square-foot Jitney Jungle/Pass It On building on West Point's Main Street into new space for Justice and Circuit courts and related offices. (Photo by Steve Rogers, DTL)
By: 
STEVE ROGERS
Staff Writer

Under the proposed financing plan, Clay County would pay as much as $325,000 a year for 12 years to lease-purchase a new Justice Center.

In fact, Clay County supervisors put $260,000 into a fund in the budget that took effect Oct. 1 as a first step in preparing for the project that will turn the old 25,000-square-foot Jitney Jungle/Pass It On building on West Point's Main Street into new space for Justice and Circuit courts and related offices.

"The idea was to start putting some money away to help with furnishings or electronics or to have a fund started for a lease agreement," Chancery Court Clerk Amy Berry said of the discussions supervisors and their advisors have had in recent months concerning the Justice Center project.

Supervisors could take the next step today when they approve the purchase of the building and property from Community Counseling Services for up to $495,000, according to the board's preliminary agenda.

Th county is working with Columbus-based Pryor and Morrow Architects on plans for the building. Construction and renovations actually would be handled by Golden Triangle Public Property leasing, a non-profit arm of the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District. That agency then would lease the building to the county.

State law allows the leases to run up to 20 years, but supervisors have discussed the shorter 12-year term to get the building paid off more quickly.

Preliminary estimates have put the building's renovation at $2.5 million to $3 million. If the total is $3 million and the county pays $325,000 a year for 12 years, that would be $3.9 million or just over 4 percent interest rate. County leaders have said they think they can get the rate down below that but it at least provides a starting point for planning and discussions as the project proceeds.

"These are just general guidelines for the discussions to give the supervisors and framework to even think about this. They are mindful of what it means to the county and want to protect taxpayers and get the most for their money," Berry said.

Golden Triangle Planning and Development Director Rudy Johnson says he hopes to have plans signed off on by the end of January, cost estimates soon thereafter and a contract with the county by early spring.

Construction would take about a year.

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