County gives update on Justice Center project

The former site of Pass It On will soon become additional court space for Clay County after the county purchased the property from Community Counseling Services.
Staff Writer

Clay County has no timeframe for finalizing a deal to take over the old Jitney Jungle/Pass It On Building on Main Street in West Point as the next step in its plans to renovate the 25,000-square-foot building into a new county justice center.

"I don't really have a time at this point. It's still going through the process," County Attorney Angela Turner-Ford said following Thursday's supervisors meeting. "Everything still is being reviewed by the attorneys."

Supervisors did approve one change to their contract to obtain the building. Originally, the county is putting down $5,000 in earnest money with that money to be returned if it didn't go through with the $495,000 purchase of the building from Community Counseling Services.

The contract will be amended to allow CCS to keep the earnest money as "liquidated damages" if the deal falls through. Golden Triangle Public Buildings Corp., a non-profit, tax exempt arm of the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District will actually build the facility with contractor Benchmark Construction, and the county will lease-purchase it from the agency under a deal that would tentatively be for 12 years. 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 below that, but it at least provides a starting point for planning and discussions as the project proceeds.

The county and GTPDD hope 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.

The renovation would include three courtrooms, secure holding cells for inmates, office space, meeting rooms, Election Commission offices, and other facilities.

Chancery Court and tax offices would remain in the existing 60-year-old Courthouse.

Some annex space likely would be torn down to improve parking and add green space.