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County narrows field for jail work
Old courthouse renovation also part of plan
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Effingham County commissioners are expected to decide next month which architect will lead the renovations of the old courthouse and the sheriff’s complex and jail.

But the questions of who will oversee the projects also involve what offices might go into the old courthouse.

“We figured you need an architect to help with that,” Assistant County Administrator David Crawley told commissioners at their meeting Tuesday.

County administrative assistant Adam Kobek said use of the space at the old courthouse, built in 1908, would have to be looked at before it is decided which offices move in there.

Swainsboro firm Buckley and Associates and Hussey, Gay, Bell and DeYoung of Savannah made their prospective pitches to commissioners for the job. County staff solicited nine proposals and interviewed five firms, narrowing the field down to the final two.

“Both have excellent credentials,” Kobek said. “Both have a full range of services.”

Former Effingham school superintendent and interim county administrator Michael Moore praised Buckley’s work since that firm has designed most of the county’s schools.

“I’ve worked with this firm and particularly Craig (Buckley) for 25 years,” he said. “You folks are familiar with the schools we have in this county and we have had great success with Craig and his designs. We have high quality buildings, they last a long time and they are easy to maintain. We also have been very impressed with Craig and how he works with the staff. He does an outstanding job.”

Buckley and Associates work with about 60 entities, mostly school systems. They have had a working relationship with Liberty County’s board of education for more than 40 years and are overseeing the construction of Liberty’s new courthouse and Hinesville’s city hall renovation.

The company’s Web site lists Ebenezer Middle School as one of its featured projects.

“We design our buildings with our clients,” Buckley said, “not just how we think it ought to be done.”

They also have done historic preservation work — the old Effingham County Courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places — with the old Camden County Courthouse in Woodbine.

Buckley said his firm isn’t in the business of doing master plans. Commissioners have discussed a possible master plan for future building needs.

“I found you wanted the opposite,” he said, “that ya’ll are tired of master plans.”

Hussey, Gay, Bell and DeYoung has worked with the county for seven years on various projects and currently is in
charge of a massive renovation of the Chatham County Courthouse and Jail. The firm also renovated the 25,000 square foot Averitt Center for the Arts in Statesboro.

“We put a lot of effort into maintaining the historic integrity as much as we could,” said Robert Armstrong.

HGBD also is in charge of the $3 million, 30,000 square foot Bryan County administrative complex.

“We want to save the historical character but give you something that’s going to work,” said Frank Pennington.

Commissioners also questioned how much the final price tag would be. Buckley and Associates proposed a 6 percent fee off the construction budget while Hussey, Gay, Bell and DeYoung submitted a bid of $28,000.

“What was difficult is that we asked for the plan and not the implementation,” Kobek said.

Commissioners likely will take the matter up at their Oct. 16 meeting. There will not be an Oct. 2 meeting because the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia convention is being held then.

“This is a very important project we have to accomplish,” Chairwoman Verna Phillips said.

Crawley also said there are some issues with the addition to the old courthouse and whether it should be repaired or removed.