Barrow to dedicate new courthouse

WINDER - In the building where Barrow's law and order was determined for decades, trash cans fill with water from a leaky roof.

While the historic courthouse in the center of Winder is still used, an annex has been closed off, the air conditioning shut off and furniture claimed for a new fire station.

Court proceedings still go on in a much more comfortable setting - a huge new complex just 1.5 miles away along Ga. Highway 211 at 652 Barrow Park Drive.

"It's a beautiful place considering what we had," Sheriff Jud Smith said on a recent tour, showing off the security measures that keep jail inmates, housed in a new jail next door, separate from the public and enhance protection for judges.

"It's up to date and state of the art," he said. "We're extremely fortunate to have something like this."

While judges, attorneys and court clerks moved in about three months ago, the new courthouse will be dedicated at 2 p.m. Sunday, in a ceremony featuring Rep. Nathan Deal and Barrow's elected officials.

Smith, who has an office at the complex, still keeps some of his deputies in the historic courthouse, built in 1920 on Broad Street. But in light of the Fulton County Courthouse shooting that left four dead, Smith said he is glad to have a greater ability to protect people.

"It's interesting to see where we came from and where we are now," he said after showing a former Probate Court room no bigger than an office in the new building.

While the new courtrooms vary in size, one has plenty of seats to accommodate the more than 100 people who show up to contest traffic tickets.

The entire complex, including a 350-bed jail, cost about $53 million, funded with bonds will be paid for with a special purpose local option sales tax approved by voters.

Commission Chairman Daniel Yearwood, whose office is in another government annex in another part of Winder, said he was concerned about the debt used to build the complex but hoped taxpayers would embrace it.

"It's a great thing," he said. "It's got every amenity as far as security. ... I hope the citizens of Barrow County enjoy it."