COLUMBUS, Georgia (WRBL) — Columbus’ council and city government continue to struggle with construction of a new courthouse amid rising construction costs.
This discussion was the focus of the long council meeting on Tuesday.
Voters approved the new courthouse. It was decided that it would be built on the existing Government Center site.
In 2021, Columbus voters approved a special sales tax to build a new courthouse to replace the current government center.
Construction costs have increased in the last two years. The design team assembled by the city says the $185 million available is not enough to finance the project.
The building will house the Superior Court, State Court, Juvenile Court, Probate Court, Municipal Court, and most offices and services associated with these courts.
The current revised plan calls for building a new tower along 10th Street in front of the Springer Opera House. To reduce costs, the two current wings of the government center will be included in the project.
An exchange took place here between councilor Charmain Crabb and Douglas Kleppin, a director of SLAM Studio. She wanted to know if they had reconsidered the decision to demolish the government center.
Crabb: “Did you go a step further to see if we could renovate the old tower instead of a new tower? And does it save money because we don’t have to buy as much material? I mean, I know we haven’t done this before, but have we looked at this again under these circumstances?”
Kleppin: “We originally carried out this analysis. In the end we never went back there. And we believe we have achieved the SPLOST objectives with this new purpose-built courthouse, retaining the wings and parking deck.”
No decisions were made today. Mayor Skip Henderson said the design team will make those decisions in the coming weeks and bring them back to council.
The mayor said the Columbus Council will vote on the design team’s final plans.
The Columbus Council meeting lasted about seven hours, the final portion of which was held in executive session.
Litigation, potential litigation and personnel were cited as reasons for the closed session.
Two weeks ago, the City Council voted to hire Atlanta law firm Troutman Pepper to assist the internal auditor in an ongoing audit of the city’s finance department.
Troutman Pepper partner Charles Peeler was in the council chambers this afternoon toward the end of the meeting.
Peeler declined to comment on the Finance Department’s audit.