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Justice Center plans hit apparent snag

In Jan. 10-16, 2008 issue
By Greg Wells, Times Journal Managing Editor

JAMESTOWN - Things went downhill rapidly after the architect told the Russell County Property Development Board that city hall would remain and they would build the proposed new judicial center around it.

"Who says?" Circuit Clerk Tony Kerr asked. County Judge-Executive Mickey Garner replied, "I guess the mayor."

Architect Sean Mathews was not specific in his reply, simply saying that they had been told that the city wanted to keep its building.

"We've been told that the city doesn't have the money to rebuild," Mathews said.

It was pointed out by several on the board, at times strenuously, that Mayor Brooks Bates and members of the city council had offered the board that property repeatedly.

Garner hinted that there was still another location, a few blocks from the square, that could be considered if the city was not going to follow through on their offer.

Steve Branscum told the board members that his understanding was only that the city wanted to keep the building, not that it had to.

In an interview Tuesday afternoon Bates was explicit. "City hall is going to be taken and I have no problem with it. The city has no problem with it."

He had said that if he had the choice he would like for the city offices to stay where they are, but that doesn't seem to be an option.

Bates said he made no calls to anyone to change the city's position and doesn't know how the situation arose.

"I didn't know anything about what transpired last night until I got in this morning," Bates said.

The mayor reinforced his position that the city had presented several options to the board and that they were standing by each one of them.

That all transpired after the meeting, however, while during the board's session the architect presented two options for the overall layout of the building that will house the civil and criminal courts as well as the clerk's offices.

The new courts' building will be funded by rent paid by the Administrative Office of the Courts, a state agency that funds the circuit and district court system and the circuit clerk's office.

In the end the board took no action, as none was available to them. It had previously been decided that the next step was to hire an appraiser and have all the properties the board is looking at appraised.

The last proposal for an appraiser was not due in until the end of this week, so none has been hired and no appraisals have been done.

It is still unclear if the February 4 meeting of the board is needed, Garner said, explaining that it is possible the appraisals won't be done by then either.

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