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Work begins on new courthouse, jail
Facilities expected to 'transform the community'
Forsyth County Chief Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley addresses the crowd gathered for a ceremony Monday morning to mark the beginning of work on a new courthouse and jail in downtown Cumming. The facilities are expected to be complete in December 2014. - photo by Jim Dean

What could have been a once-in-a-lifetime event has happened again for Forsyth County Superior Court Chief Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley.

As a teenager in 1976, he attended the groundbreaking event for the existing courthouse.

On Monday, Bagley stood on the site across the street and welcomed the start of construction for the new Forsyth County courthouse and detention center in downtown Cumming.

“Since courthouses are usually built to last a lifetime, to experience the groundbreaking of two new courthouses is certainly extraordinary,” he said. “But the explosive growth that this county has experienced since that time is perhaps even more extraordinary.”

Construction started Monday after 43 golden shovels scooped a load of red clay from the ground.

The jail, courthouse and parking deck facilities should be complete in December 2014, about three years after voters approved the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, that will found their construction.

The November 2011 referendum asked for $100 million for the jail and courthouse projects, or about half of the projected sales tax revenue over the six-year collection period.

County Commission Chairman Pete Amos thanked the voters for recognizing a need for new buildings.

“The construction of these two facilities is a true milestone for Forsyth County’s judicial and public safety infrastructure,” Amos said.

The five-story courthouse will be built across from the existing one, which will be used as an annex to house court functions currently not in the main building.

Renovations to the existing courthouse will begin after the new facility is complete.

A four-story jail will be constructed in the parking lot of the current detention center, which will be demolished when the new one is complete and replaced by parking.

The buildings will be connected by a walkway crossing East Maple Street to allow for transport of inmates.

The new jail will have the capacity for 608 inmates, though it will initially be staffed to house about 352.

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

Joe Lee, the program manager, said simply to expect that these new facilities “will be big.”

Officials have been planning for months to ensure the construction and the buildings will be as cost-effective and functional as they can be, Lee said.

“This will be the best facility in the state of Georgia, if not the nation,” he said.

Brent Reid, president and CEO of Winter Construction, said the project will “truly transform the community.”

At the same time, officials talked about maintaining the area’s character.

The courthouse will feature the “traditional great lawn” and both buildings will have a “classic exterior façade,” primarily of brick, said Lamar Wakefield, of architectural firm Wakefield Beasley and Associates.

Neither building will be filled to capacity upon opening, which will allow for future growth.

If the past is any indication of what’s to come, Forsyth can expect that space to fill up in the 50-plus years the buildings are intended to last.