Butts County officials cut the ceremonial ribbon on the new Butts County Courthouse Annex in a brief ceremony Monday at the South Mulberry Street building.
The structure was built in 1952 originally as the Butts County Health Center. It was later used by the Butts County 4-H Club before being vacated in 2014.
As the county begins work to renovate the historic courthouse on the square, the Butts County Probate Court, Juvenile Court and Juvenile Court clerk have moved to the annex, at 206 S. Mulberry St., where they are expected to stay for at least 18 months.
Renovations of the historic courthouse, which are beginning to get underway, will prepare the building to house the county’s Development Authority along with the Butts County Chamber of Commerce and visitor’s center. All of Butts County’s judicial functions are planned to be eventually moved to the Butts County Administration Building on West Third Street once that building has been expanded and renovated.
“We needed plan for a real future for Butts County, not just for today or next week, but what Butts County’s going to look like for our next generation, so we’re talking about 30 years down the road,” Commission Chairman Ken River said during Monday’s ribbon-cutting. “And so this is just the beginning of not my dream, but a shared dream of community leaders.”
The 3,768-square-foot Butts County Courthouse Annex was renovated for use by the Probate and Juvenile courts largely with inmate labor provided by the Butts County Sheriff’s Office. Inmates worked under the direction of county maintenance chief Stewart Cawthon.
During Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, county officials thanked Sheriff Gary Long for his cooperation in providing labor crews, which worked on the building for roughly four months providing manpower in most areas except skilled trades like heating and air. The county began the job in April by having a new roof installed by a contractor.
Rivers said in all, the county spent about $32,000 on the remodeling project, far less than estimates given to the county by private-sector contractors, which he said topped $300,000.
Butts County Deputy Administrator J. Michael Brewer said the project was funded by money set aside from special purpose local option sales tax proceeds earmarked for renovations of county buildings.
“We love the new building,” Probate Judge Elizabeth “Betsy” Biles said. “I’m happy the commissioners and the county manager made it a priority. I thank Stewart Cawthon and Kevin Madonna for all the hard work they did. We love the building. It’s clean. The flow works well for us and it’s bright. We’re happy to have the new space.”
While the Probate Court and Juvenile Court occupy the Mulberry Street building, their court sessions will be held in the Jackson Municipal Court building.
Superior Court sessions will be held in the auditorium of the Butts County Administration Building. Officials plan to expand that structure with a new wing to accommodate county offices, and to remodel the existing west wing of the building to consolidate all of the county’s judicial functions.