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Jail/courthouse designs take shape
Plan calls for brick exterior, bridge
Render WEB 1
An artist’s rendering shows a view of the planned courthouse and detention center in downtown Cumming. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

The designs for a new courthouse and jail in downtown Cumming have entered the final stages before construction starts in July.

During a meeting Monday, the project team approved exterior concept drawings for the buildings and two parking decks in a 9-0 vote, after making some minor tweaks to the designs.

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

Program manager Joe Lee guaranteed the project will be completed under the $100 million budget.

“We are at that part of the project where there’s a lot of pressure on the budget,” Lee said. “We will handle that pressure before you see the [guaranteed maximum price].”

The construction estimates are about 2 percent above the budget, he said, so some bids will be alternates to determine affordability before finalizing the work.

The architectural budget has increased by about 3 percent, or nearly $117,000, due to the selection of off-site parking decks. That shift will open up green space in front of the future courthouse instead of the original plan to build the deck behind the facility.

The additional funding will be drawn from the project’s contingency fund.

The guaranteed maximum price for construction will be approved by Forsyth County, possibly on July 2, and work could then begin July 8.

During a presentation Monday, architect Doug Shaw highlighted some of the design features in the courthouse, jail and parking decks.

The exteriors of the jail and courthouse are primarily brick, with white detailing.

“It’s a large, tall building,” Shaw said. “We’re trying to break up the façade and do it in an economical way.”

The five-story courthouse, with a basement, and three-story jail will connect via a 17.5-foot elevated bridge that will allow inmates to be transported safely.

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

The current 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.

“The concept of the wall,” Shaw said, “is to try to even the grade across the front of the courthouse and make it a more useable space.”

The jail will be built “hand in glove” next to the existing detention center, he said, so the current facility can remain in operation.

Construction is estimated to take 18 months, with completion at the end of 2014.