Commission exploring more courthouse options

Published 12:37 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2022

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By Carey Reeder | Staff Writer

The May 10 Chilton County Commission meeting was focused around rebuilding both the walls that house the meetings – and the relationships that fuel them.

Commissioner Joseph Parnell spoke about the courthouse and the ongoing talks about either to build a new one or remodel the current one. A new courthouse will cost the county around $30 million. Parnell has been against the remodeling of the current courthouse. However, his wife proposed a workable remodeling possibility to him.

Parnell explained that if the half-story entrance that is there now was removed, and the building extended to the edge of the sidewalk, it could add about 30 feet to the building. In the back, the building could be extended to the edge of the parking spots and add around 15 feet to the building. That additional 40-45 feet would yield around 4,500 square feet on each floor. A third floor could also be added to the courthouse.

Parnell explained that the floors could be remodeled one at a time, and if temporary buildings needed to be put in place, they could be. He also said the building was built as a fallout shelter as well, so the basement is stronger than most other buildings.

“I don’t want to put our county in debt for $30-40 million for the rest of our lives, and our grandkids lives,” Chairman Jimmie Hardee said. “I would like to see us economically do this.”

Parnell added that the goal for the remodel would be to have the probate office and all the revenue offices together. Residents could then do business in the courthouse at one location. Also, the extra space from moving the courthouse out further and adding a third floor should yield enough space for a third courtroom to be added.

Architecture firm Goodwyn Mills Cawood was hired to interview each department in the courthouse to see much space they will need to get a full mock-up of a new building. Hazard mitigation was discussed and that will be added to the bid, if the decision is made final.

A motion for GMC to expand their current investigation into what it would cost for a new courthouse to include the costs of renovations on the current courthouse was proposed and passed unanimously.

“It excites me because we are going forward with another plan,” Hardee said. “We are not just letting it die on the floor.”

Hardee welcomed Chilton County Industrial Development Authority chairman Allen Caton and board member Jason Calhoun to give the commission an update on the IDA. Caton recapped their meeting on May 10 and highlighted the desire for the IDA to “mend some fences.”

“We need to come up with a direction for our IDA, and we want this commission to a part of that,” Caton said.

Calhoun added it may take a few meetings to come up with a plan for those directions and plans to mend fences, but it will happen.

“We are looking forward to strengthening our relationships and communication lines,” Calhoun said. “There are several relationships we want to give attention to so that we can move forward.”

In another update, Hardee said the final negotiations related to the needed updates on the

limited warranty deed agreement for the Alabama Farm Center had been sent to ALFA by the Alabama Agriculture and Exhibition Center Cooperative District. Hardee said that after 10 days if no updated deal has been made, the county would request their deeds back. The original agreement had said ownership of the property would go back to the city and the

county if the project did not break ground by February 2022.

A motion that Hardee send a letter to the cooperative district stating if the negotiations with ALFA on the farm center project fail this time, that the county receives the deed back.

The motion was passed, but Commissioner Matthew Mims abstained from voting.

Under his report, Commissioner Allen Williams said Judge Chris Speaks looked into the matter, and he said that there would be no liability to the county if offenders who were sentenced to community service were assigned to clean out culvert pipes.

Williams made a motion to allow Speaks to sentence offenders to the community service to clean out culvert pipes in the county. There was no second and the motion died on the table.

The meeting was called to order and the Boy Scouts from troop 33 lead the meeting in the pledge of allegiance. Commissioner Randell Kelley was absent from the meeting.

Also, during the meeting, the commission:

  • Reclassified James Bowles to Deputy Sheriff effective April 30.
  • Rescinded the resignation of Derrick Wright and reclassified him as a part time EMA Assistant Director effective May 14, and reclassified Nic Bolton as full-time EMA director effective May 14.
  • Approved to advertise a public hearing for alcohol license for Cindy Singh at C&S Food Mart located at 38 County Road 438 in Verbena.
  • Approved Commissioner Darrell Bone to purchase a side-by-side tractor from Kubota for $57,080.39.