After more than 120 years, the Butts County Courthouse will host its final hearing next month before closing down for renovations. The closure also marks the end of the building’s use as a judicial center in the county.
Butts County officials have planned a brief ceremony for 2 p.m. Aug. 7 to adjourn court for the final time in the courthouse, which was built in 1898. Deputy County Administrator J. Michael Brewer said the offices there — those of the Butts County Probate Court and Juvenile Court — will leave the building by Aug. 16, moving into the Butts County Annex Building on South Mulberry Street. Superior Court Judge William A. Fears’ office is also expected to be relocated from the courthouse to the annex.
The Butts County Annex Building has been under renovation over the past several weeks in preparation for its new tenants. The building was most recently used by Butts County 4-H, and previously was the county Health Department building. Brewer said the building had not been used by the county for about five years, since the 4-H moved to Ernest Biles Drive.
The relocation of the Probate Court and Juvenile Court is part of a dual-pronged project to renovate the historic courthouse and consolidate most county court functions into space that will be renovated at the Butts County Administration Building. Voters approved the projects, which include an addition to the Administration Building, as part of the special purpose local option sales tax on the ballot in 2017.
Commissioners in April approved spending up to $2.98 million on the courthouse renovation, which is expected to begin the week after the Probate and Juvenile courts move out. Brewer said the project will include a complete overhaul to the basement and main floor, and demolition on the second floor, where the courtroom is located. Commissioners, however, opted not to finish out the second floor after receiving cost estimates that would have far exceeded the available funding.
But the building’s electrical and plumbing systems will be completely replaced during the renovation, and heating and air systems will be updated as well, Brewer said. The building will also get a new, modern elevator.
The courthouse’s wiring has been a source of concern for county officials over the last several years, as some components of the building still have the original wiring installed in 1911 when the building first got electricity.
Brewer said once the renovations are complete on the basement and main floor of the courthouse, expected around June of 2020, the Development Authority of Butts County and the Butts County Chamber of Commerce will move to the building. Both agencies currently occupy space at the Butts County Administration Building. When the courthouse reopens, it will also include a visitor’s center.
“We really want it to be a downtown attraction,” Brewer said. “A place where people stop to see what’s going on and to see something about our history, too.”
Probate and Juvenile courts will host court sessions in the Jackson Municipal Court Building, also on South Mulberry Street, while they are located at the Butts County Annex, Brewer said. The courts could remain at the annex for about a year and a half as work is undertaken on their permanent home at the Administration Building.
Once the addition is finished at the Administration Building, the offices currently located there will move to the new space and about two-thirds of the existing space will be renovated to house Superior, Probate and Juvenile courts.
Work on the Butts County Administration Building addition could take until sometime near the end of 2020, Brewer said.