Officials break ground on Barrow courthouse

WINDER - County, state, city and construction officials broke ground on Barrow County's new $46.4 million jail/courthouse complex off Pearl Pentecost Road on Wednesday after nearly two years of planning.

"This is an historic day for Barrow County," Chairman Doug Garrison said. "This is the largest project Barrow County has ever undertaken."

The 120,000-square-foot facility will hold a 396-bed jail with 80,000 square feet dedicated for courtroom facilities, including a large courtroom, three smaller courtrooms and office space for judges and staff. About 64,000 square feet will remain unfinished for future expansion. County officials hope to move in spring 2009.

"Our three goals in design were to make sure the center is convenient, safe and secure, and has an enduring facade," said Doug Shaw of design firm Rosser and Associates. "The courthouse and jail will be under one roof, which increases security, and the circulation corridors, like hallways, allow a response team to get to a situation quickly."

The 155 acres for the complex were purchased in 2003 for about $1.9 million.

"The previous administration had a vision and the courage to go ahead and act on that vision," Judge Robert Adamson said. "Unfortunately, those around you don't know what those needs will be. We will be proud, and relieved, to have the space."

Barrow County will fund the complex with bonds that will be repaid with sales tax funds, said Michael Fischer, deputy administrator. An additional $1 million will be used to construct a road to the jail that will connect Pearl Pentecost Road to Ga. Highway 211, Fischer said.

The jail has a 90-bed capacity, said Maj. Murray Kogod, Barrow County's chief deputy. On Wednesday evening, 175 inmates occupied the jail, according to a jail booking agent.

An undetermined amount of sales tax money has been set aside to refurbish the current courthouse facility, an early 20th century building that stands in Winder's center, Fischer said.