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Ceremony marks launch of jail, courthouse work
Construction scheduled to start on Monday
Construction of the new jail and courthouse, shown in this artist rendering, will begin Monday after a groundbreaking ceremony.

Forsyth County and the city of Cumming will celebrate the start of construction on a new courthouse and jail Monday with a groundbreaking ceremony.

At 8:30 a.m., before the trucks begin to roll in, public officials and the community will gather at the project site in downtown Cumming, across from the current courthouse.

The ceremony marks the start of the 18-month project for the two new buildings and parking decks.

Voters approved the new facilities as part of the November 2011 referendum to extend the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, which is anticipated to collect about $200 million in six years.

The courthouse and jail projects were budgeted at $100 million of the 1-cent sales tax revenue.

Pete Amos, chairman of the county commission, expressed gratitude to Forsyth residents for “recognizing the need for these new facilities and for their support of these projects.”

“Without the voters’ approval of SPLOST VII, we would not be able to construct these critical components of our judicial and public safety infrastructure,” he said in a statement.

Construction of both facilities is expected to be completed in December 2014.

Program manager Joe Lee, who was hired to oversee the project, reported last week that the work remains on schedule and within budget.

The project site has remained dormant since demolition crews cleared the area earlier this year, knocking down office buildings, a parking deck and a small building by the existing jail.

When construction is complete, a five-story courthouse, plus a basement, will stand on the cleared site across from the existing building.

A four-story jail will be built in the parking lot area of the current detention center, so the facility can remain in operation during construction.

A 17.5-foot elevated bridge above East Maple Street will connect the buildings and allow inmates to be transported safely between them.

Due to differences in land elevation, the bridge will be on the jail's second floor, but the courthouse's first.

The design also shows a retaining wall along the side of the courthouse between the two buildings where the land drops nearly 20 feet from the north side of the site.

Both buildings will have an exterior of primarily brick with precast concrete.

The new courthouse will be about 158,000 square feet, though only about 120,000 of that will be finished. The remaining space will be “shelled” to provide space for future needs and growth, according to the county.

The building will house superior and state courts, the solicitor-general, district attorney, clerk of courts, court administration, grand jury and jury assembly. It has been designed for enhanced security and efficiency.

Renovations to the existing courthouse, built in 1976, will begin after the new facility is complete.

The old courthouse will be renamed the Forsyth County Courthouse Annex, and provide a central location for functions not currently in the building: Magistrate and probate courts, pre-trial services and indigent defense.

Renovations are expected to be completed in April 2015.

The new jail will be about 177,000 square feet with an inmate capacity of 608, though the facility will initially be staffed to accommodate about half that many.

Like the courthouse, the new jail was designed with the county’s future growth in mind, and room for expansion to the south.

Once the new jail is completed, the current jail will be demolished to make way for parking.

Two new parking facilities in downtown Cumming will also be built: one near the County Administration Building and the second at the southwest corner of Castleberry Road and Maple Street.

The projected completion date for the parking facilities is late 2014.