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Space still an issue for county

LAWRENCEVILLE - Even while celebrating the conversion of a former Wal-Mart to a county government office, officials know the latest building is simply a short-term solution to the county's space needs.

Deputy County Administrator Mike Comer said the addition of the new central services facility and a Recorder's and Juvenile Court building that opened earlier this year gives officials about five years before the government operations are again busting at the seams.

"We probably need to make a decision in 2007. That means work needs to happen now," he said.

A couple of years ago, a study on space concluded the need for a new $300 million courthouse, but officials balked at the price and decided against asking voters for the money in a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum.

Comer said officials are now mulling over ideas and would likely consider building a center on the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center campus, which also includes a three-story building known as One Justice Square.

But the funding is still a huge, looming question, especially since the county is also expecting to build a second tower for the jail, Comer said.

Support Services Director Connie Hinson said, the opening of the central services facility allows other departments to be shuffled at the justice center.

The Department of Transportation recently expanded into offices that were used by planning and development before One Justice Square opened. The communications department is getting a new suite, and the area that housed the elections department will go to human resources.

Then, the human resources space will go to a team working on a computer project, and the clerk of court will get that space.

County records will move out of the basement, and the information technology department will move in.

On the courts side of the justice center, construction is under way to convert the former Recorder's and Juvenile court space to more courtrooms.

"We've got a domino effect here," Hinson said. "It's going to help everybody out. It's going to be great."