Design contract approved for courthouse expansion

COVINGTON -- Commissioners recently approved the contract for architectural and engineering design services on the expansion of the Newton County Judicial Center.

Lyman Davidson Dooley Inc. was awarded the contract at a maximum cost of $474,920. The expansion will be funded through a SPLOST allocation of $7 million. Based on a study conducted by Lyman Davidson Dooley when the project first was discussed in 2007, the construction phase will cost $6.3 million.

According to a scope of work presented to the county, Lyman Davidson Dooley will design a three-story structure with new Superior Court space, a new Juvenile Court, additional offices, lobbies, an enlarged Probate Court and additional waiting rooms and will redefine support areas for offices, attorney rooms and conference space.

The expansion will be about 50,000 square feet, unless needs have changed since initial studies conducted by Lyman Davidson Dooley in 2007. Some of the new square footage will be shell construction for future occupancy.

Lyman Davidson Dooley will also consider needs for additional parking. The work will be done in consultation with judges and judicial center staff.

Commissioner Mort Ewing asked whether the county will have enough SPLOST revenues to pay for services.

"They would not be allowed to do work for money that we don't have?" he asked.

"That's correct," said County Manager John Middleton.

It will take one to two years to complete the plans, and Chairman Kathy Morgan previously said she does not expect construction on the expansion to begin until near the end of the six-year SPLOST. Commissioners have decided not to bond any SPLOST projects, meaning the money must be in hand before work can begin.

Lyman Davidson Dooley did the design for the county administrative building and an earlier judicial center expansion to make room for a fifth judge.

The Newton County Judicial Center was slated to be at full capacity in 2013, but has already reached that point.

There are three courtrooms for five judges, and the Juvenile, Magistrate and Probate courts must share a courtroom.