CHIPLEY - After a day-long process of reviewing eight applicants for the position of courthouse architect on July 18, the Washington County Courthouse Committee agreed on Justice Reference Architecture, Inc. as their top choice to present to the Washington County Board of County Commissioners when they meet in regular session this Thursday, July 24.
After assessments showed the original courthouse, built in 1932 under architect Frank Lockwood, was damaged by water with repairs estimated in the millions the county pursued state funding and was recently allocated $9.2 million by the legislature.
A committee comprised of Judge Colby Peel, Washington County Sheriff Bobby Haddock, Board of County Commissioners Chair Alan Bush, Judge Chris Patterson, and Court Administrators Jan Shadburn and Amber Baggett was assembled to review eight architects and present their top pick to commissioners.
Points proposed by JRA which seemed to interest the committee was their idea of using all the prominent historical fixtures from the original courthouse in order to keep the original look and feel of the
iconic building. The firm also suggested taking into consideration monuments and a time capsule, increasing for a total of 200 parking spaces, and ensuring secure entrances and parking for judges and staff. JRA said they would earmark 16 percent of additional space for future growth and guaranteed the project to be at least $1 million under budget and ahead of schedule.
"We take pride in the amount of money that is presented back to the state after projects," said JRA President Jim Roberson. "I just want you to have a functional and attractive yet judicially distinctive image. Something that your community can be proud of."
Each committee member ranked each presenting architect firm and selected the number one ranked firm, which was JRA, located in Panama City. The other top scoring firms were Clemons, Rutherford & Associates (CRA) and Hatch Mott MacDonald.
Information provided by the other two ranking firms included:
CRA: Advised committee members they specialize in courthouse expansion and renovation and believe in complete transparency. The firm stated they provided additional space for growth, within budget, responsible for the new Kate M. Smith Elementary School and would do the same for the new courthouse, with an emphasis on security and foreseeing adjustments for water and sewer permits. CRA suggested upgrades to building's architectural design for "minimum maintenance and optimized utility," using three-dimensional programs for judges to adjust courtroom layout. They also stated they specialized in cost management and assures use of local labor.
Hatch Mott MacDonald: Advised committee members they are experienced in restoring historic structures and are familiar with the agencies within the Washington County Courthouse. The firm also stated they could work within the budget provided.
In all, committee members seemed pleased with the presentations.
"They were all about team work," said Sheriff Haddock. "Their conceptual ideas were unique, and they came with ideas we never even thought of. One of my major concerns is about how we're going to build and allow for growth in the future in such a small area."
The committee will present their recommendation to commissioners Thursday.