Should the upstairs of the old county courthouse be renovated and used for community events?
That’s a question county commissioners will ponder as they consider how to allocate sales tax funds if voters renew a one-cent sales tax in November.
Zoning administrator and a county economic development committee member Linda Fortson approached the BOC April 1 and asked the board to consider allocating $90,000 in the 2014 special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) to renovating the upstairs courtroom at the old courthouse, which was constructed in 1901.
The board approved $90,000 in 2008 for renovating the courthouse. The county still has $82,105 of that money, with $7,895 spent a couple of years ago to have bats removed from the building.
“The (economic development) committee would like to see the upstairs restored as the bottom part is,” said Fortson. “We know that what the balance is will not cover that, because the ceiling is going to be the largest expense of all. It’s in very poor condition.”
Fortson said the courthouse has a rich history and that there is community interest in making the courtroom usable again.
“We’ve had a lot of citizens in the county asking about getting that restored,” said Fortson.
She said the economic committee has yet to get any estimates on the cost of the renovation. She noted that the Pilot Club has set aside money to get the elevator to the upstairs functioning again. Likewise, a late Madison County citizen left behind money to turn the upstairs into a museum. The total dollar figure wasn’t discussed.
Fortson said a museum is one possible function for the upstairs, but she said the public could use the room for special events.
“That upstairs would be great to utilize for the public,” said Fortson. “Even though it’s in awful shape, it’s still a beautiful place up there. The acoustics in that room is just unbelievable. A lot of other counties with their old courtrooms that they don’t use, they have citizens of the county put on plays and they rent it out for different functions…If we can get it back to where it can be used, it will stay used a pretty good portion of the time. Because we don’t have anything currently that people can use for functions. It would be a great asset to the city of Danielsville and our county.”
County commissioners didn’t take any vote on the request Monday, nor did they offer any indication of leaning “Yes” or “No” to the proposal.
In recent weeks, the board has gathered requests for SPLOST funding from various departments and organizations. And the group has yet to discuss what projects will or won’t be included on the SPLOST referendum this fall.
Dove reviewed all of the requests for commissioners Monday. These requests include: $2 million for the industrial authority, $1.5 million for the cities, $1.3 million for the sheriff’s department, $1.2 million for the fire departments, $1.167 million for EMS, $610,000 for the recreation department, $257,000 for the 9-1-1 department, $233,000 for the transfer station, $90,000 for the old courthouse and $40,000 for the county 4-H.
County commission chairman Anthony Dove said commissioners can expect roughly $12.5-to-12.6 million in SPLOST revenue over the next six years — estimates that are based on current sales tax revenues.
If the board approved all SPLOST proposals they’ve received, they will have an estimated $4 million to allocate to road projects over six years.
In 2008, the board approved just under $4 million for roads. And commissioners have frequently stated that this figure wasn’t sufficient for local road upkeep. In the 2003 SPLOST, nearly $9 million was tagged for roads.