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It’s been nearly 40 years since the county courthouse building in Wedowee has seen any significant changes, but that dormant state is most likely coming to an end later this year with the first planned major renovation of the county’s headquarters since 1985.
The project will come at an expected price tag of just over $3 million, with the majority of that money coming from funds from the American Rescue Plan, the federal stimulus package passed by Congress in 2021 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The money is earmarked specifically for upgrades to government buildings in the wake of the pandemic.
If the plans are finalized and approved later this year, the most significant change with the new renovations will be to shift the main entrance to what is currently the back of the building.
A two-story addition will be constructed on the back of the building, with the ground floor being home to a waiting area and the building’s security checkpoint. Currently the security checkpoint at the front entrance is cramped in the small entryway, and the courthouse has no common public waiting area.
The renovation will also shuffle the locations of some of the governmental departments in the building. The first floor will see an expansion of Sheriff’s Department space, while the circuit clerk’s office will move to the second floor with the rest of the court-related facilities.
There will also be a handful of cosmetic changes within the building and within some of the other departments’ offices.
The changes will also include the construction of a larger parking lot behind the building as a way to miminize the need for parking in spaces along Highway 431.
This is all per information shared with the Leader by county CFO Travis Heard.
The comprehensive plan includes certain elements that won’t get done within the scope of this year’s project due to a lack of funding. Renovations to the extension service office and to other annex buildings in the courthouse complex will have to wait. The entirety of the project comes to just over $4.1 million, but roughly $1 million worth of work will not make the cut with this project.
The total for the work that will get done comes to nearly $3.4 million, with almost $2.4 million of that going toward the main addition on the back of the building. Of the cost of the project, just $238,000 will come out of the county’s funds, and that amount will come from budgeted capital improvement money for 2024.
The approval of the renovation plans will go in stages, with the most significant changes having already taken place between the 10 percent approval and the most recent 35 percent approval.
This month the County Commission will review the 65 percent plans, with 95 percent approval expected in March and full approval expected in April.
That timeline would allow the county to take bids on the final project in May with hopes that construction would begin in September.