DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) - A six-year renovation of one South Georgia court building is close to wrapping up.
$960,000 has been earmarked to re-haul the entire third floor of the Dougherty County Judicial Building.
It's a project that has been a multi-year undertaking, and for good reason.
The project has been done almost entirely in-house, with labor by county employees.
The cost-savings cannot be underestimated, but for both judges and employees, the increase in efficiency is even more significant than the cost savings.
It has been a slow and meticulous process.
"We started in 2010, and with all of the other 51 buildings that we have to take care of, that's why it's taken us so long," said Facilities Management Director Heidi Minnick.
"Since it's been done in house it's been a slower renovation but we are trying to save money for the taxpayers," explained Chief Magistrate Judge Baxter Howell.
A small team of county facility workers have led the project, with great success according to those who get to work on the third floor.
"Of course it's a more pleasant space to work in, and it helps your retention of your employees too," said Judge Howell.
On Monday, Howell showed off the office's first ever breakroom, restroom and a storefront-style space that allows citizens to conduct their civil claim business quickly.
"This will be the magistrate courtroom and it will also be used as a state courtroom and can be used for a superior courtroom if necessary," said Howell.
The actual courtroom is the last big piece of the renovation. Pew seating will be installed, and of course the judge's bench.
"The commission (Monday) approved a bench that will be custom built in order to fit in the space that was recently renovated," said Dougherty County Assistant Administrator Michael McCoy.
It's a $55,000 bench made with steel.
"You never know who might be able to smuggle a weapon in or take a shot at the judge," explained Howell. "So they have it so the judge can duck down below the bench and be protected."
Fitted perfectly to the space, done with pride by the dedicated county employees who clearly care about their craft.
"To me it just blows my mind at the work they are able to do and keep doing it and come to work with a smile," said Minnick.
And, it appears the project will come under budget.
With so much work done already, there is still about $300,000 remaining, which is about a third of the total budget.