Burke County breaks ground on new judicial center

New judicial center will provide more space for court business in Burke County.

WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WJBF) – After a century and a half, Burke County government will transition into something new. A groundbreaking took place in Downtown Waynesboro for a new judicial center.

The current court house has been around for 150 years.  Built in 1857, it got to the point where it just wasn’t enough space. Tuesday’s groundbreaking made way for a larger judicial center in Burke County.

State Court Judge Jackson Cox, who works part-time as a lawyer in downtown Waynesboro, met with NewsChannel 6.  He told us he was looking forward to the extra space.

“With this increased space we’ll be able to move people in and out more quickly,” Judge Cox stated.

Judge Cox has seen an increase in the volume of cases throughout Burke County’s judicial system, so he’s looking forward to a new building.

“Our calendar will be to be handled in one day instead of having to spread it out in more than one day,” he explained.

County Administrator Merv Waldrop sat down with NewsChannel 6 too. He said the current court house dates back 150 years. And with all those years comes a lot of paperwork.

“The Clerk of Court’s Office, they are totally out of space for recording deeds, for recording liens, for court cases,” he said.

Waldrop added what worked for Burke County when it was first formed won’t work now when it comes to security.

“Right now we’ve got prisoners mixing with victims and jurors,” he said. “It’s real difficult to separate the prisoners from the public when you’re having court. You bring them up the front steps and that’s kind of dangerous.”

About $9 million in SPLOST funds along with county savings will pay for the new $16.9 million judicial center and it will be maintained through the county’s general fund. No bonds were issued for the project, so that means Burke County is taking on the new venture without owing anyone.

“Commissioners have been good about being discipline, under spending. So we’re able to build this facility. It’s going to last us another 100 years,” Waldrop stated.

The judicial center is expected to open in August 2018.

Photojournalist: Mark Gaskins

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