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Parking plans aired for new courthouse
Two decks downtown favored
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Forsyth County News

One of the biggest remaining design questions surrounding the new Forsyth County courthouse came into focus during a meeting Wednesday.

After reviewing three proposals, a project team studying the issue recommended building two parking decks downtown instead of one.

The proposal calls for a four-level deck with about 450 spots behind the county administration building, while a one-level deck with about 250 spots would be built at the corner of Maple Street and Castleberry Road, replacing an existing parking lot.

The vote was 8-0 in favor with Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton absent.

Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt said the two-deck option would reduce traffic congestion compared to a single parking deck plan.

“By virtue of having two separate locations across the block from each other, I think that would be more advantageous,” Gravitt said.

Project manager Joe Lee said traffic engineers will study the impact on city streets when reviewing the team’s recommendation before making a final decision.

“When the traffic engineers come back, those [space] numbers may be a little bit different,” Lee said.

The other possibilities included either a five-level deck behind the administration building, which would require acquiring more land, or a four-level, wider deck near the Tyson plant.

No matter which option the team chose, plans also call for about 100 surface level parking spots at the jail.

The parking issue had taken on some urgency as an existing 240-space deck in downtown Cumming will be demolished to make way for the new courthouse, which is going in across from the current one.

Preliminary plans showed a deck being constructed on the site of the current one, behind the new courthouse.

However, the county commission selected a design plan called “town green,” which calls for an open space in front of the new courthouse and moves the building away from the road.

That design also displaced the original location for the proposed parking deck.

Demolition of the buildings on the Cumming square is set for mid-January, after which temporary parking locations in town will include the lot near Tyson, some spaces at the Cumming Playhouse and others at city hall.

The courthouse and jail projects were approved as part of a November 2011 referendum to extend the special purpose local option sales tax, known as SPLOST VII.

The projects, including the parking decks, are estimated to cost about $100 million, or nearly half of the anticipated revenue from the six-year tax collection.

The project team also reviewed proposals from construction managers, selecting the recommendation of the selection committee for a joint venture between Turner Construction and Winter Construction, both of Atlanta.

The fees submitted in the proposal totaled about $6.3 million, but that price does not include the cost to build, which will be estimated once the design is complete, county spokeswoman Jodi Gardner said.

Procurement director Donna Kukarola said the selection committee ranked that team’s proposal high due to its experience, personnel that would be dedicated to the project, added services and extended two-year warranty.

County commissioners were scheduled to make the final decision at a meeting Thursday night.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the project team voted 8-0 to demolish the existing detention center, after a study determined the facility would cost about $3.46 million to repair versus about $4.8 million to replace.

That demolition is not expected to happen until the new facility, which will be built on the same site, is complete.

The estimates for the current courthouse led the team to recommend renovating that structure, would cost about $2.4 million to repair, but about $9 million to replace.