One of the most historic landmarks in Bay County is in need of expansion. County commissioners say Bay County courthouse renovations are going to cost a few million, and that's why they're looking to partner up with Panama City on the project.
The courthouse has seen tons of cases over the years, including the historic Gideon vs Wainwright case. Some in the county are saying without some action, it may not see many more.
"We've got some things we've got to modernize in that courthouse, and we're just running out of space." Bay County commissioner George Gainer said. "We just don't have room to put our judges."
A $13.5 million dollar expansion is in the works for the building. It would include a new two story structure, complete with a parking garage. Chief Judge Hentz McClellan says it would be a welcome change from the old facility.
"All sorts of building issues over the past several years," Judge McClellan said. "The county has dealt with a lot of those...put a new roof on, did some structural repairs."
The county is looking to bank loans or bonds to finance the project. The current plan involves using the existing $30 surcharge on traffic tickets to pay off the debt. They're also looking to part of the $1.8 million in court facility funds to pay for furniture and technology. About 1 million of that is tied into an already existing project, however.
"Part of that is being used to pay off the juvenile justice courthouse," Judge McClellan said. "So the question is how do you do this addition when you're trying to pay off that addition?"
So commissioners discussed easing that juvenile justice debt by forming a partnership with Panama City.
"I'm sure that there will be some things they want the county to do in return," commissioner Gainer said. "I think we've got a good spirit of cooperation between Bay County and Panama City."
With Panama City helping to pay down the debt, the county could hold on to the $1 million dollars of court facility funds for the project. That way, if the revenues from the parking tickets come below expectations they can use that, rather than digging into the county's general fund.
There are still some issues left to be worked out, such as paying for electrical repairs to the existing courthouse. Commissioner Guy Tunnell is set to meet with Panama City mayor Greg Brudnicki to discuss their options.