August 26, 2019

County Officials held a ribbon cutting and open house at the newly renovated Courthouse Annex, also known as the Old Health Department building, located at 206 South Mulberry Street in Jackson on Monday. The building, which has been completely renovated and brought up to code, has been vacant since 2014, when its last occupants were relocated due to deteriorated conditions. The County put the building on the market the following year but withdrew it from sale when the highest bid received was $47,000.00. In 2017, the County commissioned a study of the historic courthouse and its conditions, and while here, had that firm also assess the old health department. The study showed that most of the building’s components were in a state of failure, although it noted that the building was structurally sound and well built. They also showed the costs to bring the building back to good condition to be as high as $300,000.00.

That November, the County included provisions in a SPLOST referendum to provide for renovating County buildings and this passed public consent with a 3 to 1 ratio. When it was determined that office space would be needed for a few years to temporarily house the Probate Court, Juvenile Court and Clerk of Juvenile Court offices, the County found that the old health department building was large enough and conveniently located next to the Municipal Courthouse. Facilities Director Stewart Cawthon surveyed the building and determined that his department, if supplemented with inmate construction labor, could bring the old building back to top condition for a fraction of the estimated cost.

Beginning in April, a high-grade new roof was installed to prevent further water damage to the building and using inmates with heavy experience in construction, they begin to put the building back into operational condition. The new roof, air conditioner installation and carpeting were outsourced; everything else including electrical, plumbing, lighting, drywall work, removal of debris, painting, finishes and trim work were done by county employees, supplemented with volunteer inmate labor provided by Sheriff Gary Long. Completion time was four months and the total project cost about 15% of what it would have cost to contract the entire job out. Kevin Madonna, another facilities department employee, supervised the inmate construction team. Kevin is a former building contractor and construction manager and his experience ensured the work was done correctly. All work was inspected and passed by code and fire services.

Speaking at the opening ceremonies, Chairman Ken Rivers thanked all County staff, Court employees and Sheriff Gary Long for their contributions to the project. “It was my goal when I ran for commissioner to make the best use out of what we had rather than always building something new” he remarked. “Our staff and the workers provided by our Sheriff have done an outstanding job bringing this building back up asset status for the County and at a considerable savings to the taxpayers. We hope it will have a long future with us”.

Photo courtesy of Jackson Progress Argus