Courthouse, jail projects in Cumming make progress toward demolition
Financing of project still being worked out by committee

by Aldo Nahed

September 24, 2012

CUMMING, Ga. — Several buildings in downtown Cumming will soon see the wrecking ball.

With the recent approval of a project manager and an architect and engineering firm, the $100 million new courthouse and jail expansion made additional steps toward beginning demolition of buildings along Veterans Memorial Boulevard between Main and Maple streets in downtown Cumming.

A demolition date has not yet been set as financing for the project is being hatched out by a committee made up of city and county leaders.

On Sept. 20, Forsyth County Commissioners gave approval to hire Norcross-based Wakefield Beasley & Associates at nearly $4 million for architectural and engineering work.

Wakefield Beasley & Associates were consultants for the project in May 2011 and were the ones that pegged the cost of building the courthouse and jail expansion and land acquisition at $100 million.

The Alpharetta-based Carter Goble Lee was chosen in July 2012 to be the project manager at a rate of $1.4 million.

Last November, voters approved the projects as part of the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST. This marks the seventh SPLOST approved in the county.

The project calls for 175,000 square-feet associated with the jail addition and 160,000 square-feet of new four-story construction for the courthouse and parking deck.

Superior Court Chief Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley has said the current courthouse is out of room.

Bagley said there is a safety issue currently because inmates awaiting trial at the courthouse are close to the public.

Construction of the courthouse and jail expansion could be completed in 2015-16.

The existing courthouse would be used to consolidate courts from five locations down to three.

The sheriff’s office has also said that their current jail is over capacity and paying neighboring counties to house prisoners has added up.

Sheriff’s office estimates say that by 2020, the county would have spent about $66 million dollars to house inmates in Hall, Lumpkin, Dawson, Cherokee and Gwinnett counties.

The jail expansion could provide about 700 beds, support space for up to 1,200 people and be connected to the court by tunnel or bridge.

Currently, capacity at the jail is 226, but that includes both inmates and detention staff.

David Gruen, the county’s finance director, said the projects will require borrowing about $50 million at an estimated $5 million and financing would begin in January. The SPLOST revenues would be rolling in about 2019.

FH 092612