Maury County Judicial Center Keeps Moving Forward

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Rendering of New Judicial Building from Maury County Government website..

With initial architectural renderings for the new Maury County Judicial Center being presented to the Maury County Building Committee in early February and demolition of the former Daily Herald building completed, construction of the two-story, 55,000-square foot, all-encompassing almost $34 million judicial center is heading forward. It is a need that was initially discussed all the way back in 1994. Between county growth and the old county courthouse not being able to fulfill today’s demands for equitable access and service to all citizens within the county, it is a much-needed update.

The Building Committee presented a $30 million plan, and a secondary plan calling for a 42,000-square-foot building that would not include juvenile courts or a grand jury room, which had an estimated cost of more than $23 million. It was determined that in the end, splitting the courts would cost much more than the $7 million savings because it would require duplicate staffs, additional police to secure two buildings, moving people back and forth and the old court building is still not Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design compliant. One of the pressing needs of a new courthouse.

Maury County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eric Previti told The Daily Herald last year, when he was Chairman of the Maury County Building Committee, “This is not just about compliance. This is also about getting everybody into one building rather than transporting people from one building to another. Everybody we talked to has asked us to get everyone into one building.” He said in the same article, “this project is going to allow the county to move all of the courtrooms, support staff, grand jury and holding areas to a new building, leaving the historic courthouse empty for the time being.”

There have been comments that this should have been done 30 years ago, but the road to approval has been rocky. With the County Commission headed towards a significant turnover this year, those who just left the commission worked hard to push towards approval of a plan for a new Maury County Judicial Center before they left office.

Plans for the new Judicial Center began with the concept of purchasing the old Daily Herald building that was built in 1968 and 3.17 acres adjacent to it and converting the old building into a new center by adding a second floor. Initially, plans were approved to spend about $2 million to purchase and prep the property for building, and then $8 million to convert the older building into the Judicial Center. The feasibility of this plan was not worked out in advance, and it was later found that this plan was not going to fulfill the needs of the county.

Last year, the commission approved $30 million for the design and construction of the new facility, but total project costs have increased. The first phase costs have increased to $2,177,430 from the initial estimate, causing the budget to be increased to $33.9 million. The more than $2 million covered the cost of demolition of the old building, site grading, utility installation and prepping the land pad for the next phase. The second phase will cost $8.9 million and it will cover the cost of asphalt paving, site concrete and additional bond, insurance and construction costs.

Total costs will firm up after approval of the completed architectural design, but these are times with fluctuating materials costs. The good thing is, the county was able to lock in costs on certain building materials.

Even with the rising costs, taxpayers are still not expected to have to cover any of the bill. Monies voted in by the council from American Rescue Plan Act funds, which is intended to help with the health and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, will cover the majority of the costs. The remainder of the funding will come from litigation funds.

This will actually be the fourth courthouse for Maury County. The first was built in 1810 out of brick. It was followed by one built in 1846 that fell into disrepair after the Civil War when there was little to no money to repair and maintain the building. The 1846 building was razed in 1904 and the current building was completed in 1906.

With the recent growth of the county and the projections for future population increases, the new judicial center will prepare the county for the future. There are already between 3,500 and 5,000 people who come to the current courthouse per month. That number can only increase. While it is hard to see traffic leave the downtown area, at the same time the courthouse just can’t accommodate the number already passing through. And that number will only increase.

Already there is not enough space for those awaiting trials, for those testifying or for private meetings between lawyers and their clients, which often take place in congested hallways. This is a problem that many cities in the area have gone through with all of the population growth, and have been able to solve the issue with a new judicial center designed specifically to solve the problems of the community. That is what is going into the planning of the Maury County Judicial Center.

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