The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

December 3, 2013

County OKs contract for temporary courthouse

By Kim West

— The County Commission formally approved on Monday an agreement with EMW Construction to revamp the former Better Living building into a temporary courthouse for the 39th Judicial Circuit.

During its Oct. 31 work session, the commission accepted the Athens construction company’s low bid of $558,000 for remodeling the building at 503 S. Jefferson St. in the Family Dollar shopping center.

The 12,000-square-foot building will provide the court system with four temporary courtrooms during the estimated $3 million renovations at the Limestone County Courthouse.

Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee previously said he expects the Better Living building to be ready early next year to temporarily house the court system.

Construction officials said last week the renovations at the downtown courthouse would take 18 months to two years to complete after bid packages are processed in late January.

When the court system moves out of the courthouse, Circuit Clerk Brad Curnutt and his staff will be housed in the Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority’s building at the corner of Jefferson and Forrest streets.

District Attorney Brian Jones’ office will be at the future home of his office’s pretrial diversion program across from the Clinton Street courthouse annex. The building is next to Inez’s Soul Food on Washington Street.

After the courthouse renovations are complete, the county’s court programs — Community Corrections, Pardons and Paroles — will relocate from their current home in the nearby Crutcher Shopping Center to the Better Living building, which was purchased in April for $464,000.

The county originally intended to permanently locate the court programs in the former Fred’s building in the old L&S Shopping Center on North Jefferson Street, and bought the seven-acre property for $525,000 in May 2012.

But the prohibitive cost of renovating the Fred’s building prompted the commission to consider other options, eventually leading to the Better Living purchase earlier this year.

Other business

The commission on Monday approved the following:

• A contract with AT&T for a small cell in-building license agreement to improve signal strength within the Limestone County Courthouse, at no cost to the county;

• An Emergency Management Performance grant from the state for $49,190;

• A low bid of $60,555 to Robert Ingram to purchase an asphalt milling attachment for the Engineering Department;

• The transfer of Haley Wilborn from a communications officer to a corrections officer at the Sheriff’s Office;

• A merit increase for Work Release Director Bill Daws; and

• Closing the Washington Street and Clinton annexes and the courthouse from noon-1 p.m. Dec. 13 for the annual Christmas luncheon for county employees.

Also during Monday’s meeting, the Athens-Limestone Beautification Board submitted a $5,000 appropriation request to pay for signage at county landmarks and cemetery fencing. The commission will hold a work session at 10 a.m. Dec. 11, at the Washington Street annex.