A ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Forsyth County Courthouse is set for 10 a.m. Thursday. The public is invited to attend. Following the ceremony, guests will have an opportunity to go inside and see the new structure.
* Tag along as Studio Forsyth visits the new courthouse.
CUMMING — With the moving boxes scattered, workers finishing last-minute jobs and bare walls, it is hard to believe the new Forsyth County Courthouse is about to open in downtown Cumming.
Yet, later this week that’s exactly what will happen, as the county welcomes its first new courthouse in nearly 40 years.
“This is our first day, grand opening of the courthouse,” said Bell-Forsyth Circuit Court Administrator Robin Rooks as she led some visitors on a tour Friday. “We have the ribbon cutting [coming up] this Thursday, but we have everyone moving in today.”
The ceremony Thursday, featuring Chief Justice Hugh Thompson of the Georgia Supreme Court as the keynote speaker, is set for 10 a.m. The following Monday, March 16, the facility will open.
Construction on the courthouse began in July 2013. A new four-story jail, which is being built across East Maple Street, is scheduled to open sometime in April.
Construction of both structures, as well as two new parking decks downtown, is being funded by $100 million from an extension of the 1-cent sales tax program, which voters approved in a November 2011 referendum.
It has been quite a process to move out of the circa 1978 courthouse across the way, but the new five-story structure at 101 E. Courthouse Square, where Main Street meets Veterans Memorial Boulevard, will have room for everyone.
“On the first story, we have the law library, the attorney’s resource center and the clerk’s office,” Rooks said. “On the second floor, we have the [District Attorney] and the Solicitor. On the fourth floor, we have State Court, and the fifth floor is Superior Court.”
One area with plenty of room is the courthouse’s third floor, which is being kept vacant so that space will be available for future needs. In addition, part of the fourth floor still needs to be finished.
“The rest of the fourth floor has not been built out yet,” Rooks said. “When they do [that], that’s going to be for accountability court, pretrial services and indigent defense.”
Both the fourth and fifth levels feature large “ceremonial “courtrooms and several smaller courtrooms outfitted with newer technology lacking in the current courthouse, which isn’t going anywhere and will be used for other county needs.
“Probate Court is moving to the bottom floor [of the 1973 courthouse],” Rooks said. “The first and second levels will be for the sheriff, who will be there temporarily.”
District Attorney Penny Penn and her staff were getting settled into their new quarters Friday when the Forsyth County News visited. Penn said she and other officials welcomed the change.
“I was with two of the prosecutors, we were upstairs looking at the courtrooms,” Penn said. “It’s just something with everything being new and the evidence presentation system, all the new technology.”
Penn added that they and other offices were nearly unable to move in Friday, as the certificate of occupancy didn’t arrive until the morning.
“I was watching my emails all morning, then finally about 9:55 [a.m.] I said, ‘It’s go time.’ We’d been packing all week and getting everything ready, and we had hoped we could start moving everything in sooner,” she said.
“It’s just been a challenge, because we’ve been trying to get everything moved and at the same time there’s still court going on. People are in court this afternoon.”