Architect: Locals primed for Justice Center work

 Clay County Chancery Court Clerk Amy Berry (left) talks with electrical engineer Tony Carr and architect Roger Pryor Thursday.
Staff Writer

As much as 90 percent of the contractors hired to do work on the new Clay County Justice Center will be local, the project's architect said Thursday.

Roger Pryor of Columbus-based Pryor and Morrow Architects and electrical engineer Tony Carr reviewed plans for the center with Chancery Court Clerk Amy Berry and other county officials.

They hope to have them finalized by the end of next month.

The county will renovate the 25,000-square-foot former Jitney Jungle/Pass It On Building on Main Street in West Point into offices, three courtrooms and related space for the Circuit and Justice courts.

"The unique thing about this project is almost all the work, 90 percent probably, will be done by contractors within 50 miles of here. They have been very aggressive about seeking out local people to do the work," Pryor said.

The firm hopes to finish the plans and have them approved by the Clay County Board of Supervisors by the end of February, if not sooner. The costs and possible terms of the lease-purchase agreement with the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District also may be completed by then.

"I think you will have numbers by then. They've been following this all the way along," Pryor said of the contractors.

The Golden Triangle Building Corporation, the tax-exempt arm of the GTPDD, will finance the project and Benchmark Construction will be the contractor, hiring subcontractors to complete the job.

The county will lease the building from the Building Corporation, likely in a 12-year lease-purchase agreement. The county has said it doesn't intend to pay more than $325,000 a year for the deal.

Preliminary estimates put the costs at between $2.5 million and $3 million, although they could be lower.

Work could begin in April and should take no more than a year to complete.

"Almost all the work will be done inside so weather won't be an issue," Pryor said of the 2.3-acre site. "I certainly think you should have everything to approve and some numbers by the end of February."

Once the project is completed, minor renovations will be done to the existing courthouse to free up space for Chancery Court and the Tax Assessor's office. Some of the annex buildings may be torn down to provide parking.