Glynn County’s courthouse doesn’t have enough room to house all the judges of the various courts and their supporting staff, but the county commission has yet to decide how to fix the issue.
Former Glynn County sheriff Wayne Bennett, general contractor Billy Lawrence, former banker Jack Hartman, architect John Tuten and Ralph Basham, former director of FLETC — the five members of the newly-created Courthouse Space Needs Assessment Committee — met with four county commissioners and Glynn County Superior Court Judge Steven Scarlett on Thursday to get started on the task.
“We have a propensity in Glynn County to do things according to how much money we have, not what we need to do to do it the right way,” said county commission vice chairman Bill Brunson. “I think the courthouse and maybe the 911 Center and some other things are products of that. We said ‘Well, we don’t have enough money so let’s cut this corner and kick the can down the road,’ and here we are.”
County commission chairman Mike Browning said the commission will decide how to proceed based on the committee’s findings — how much to spend on it and whether to include the courthouse expansion on the next special-purpose, local-option sales tax, include it in a later SPLOST or pay for it some other way.
This may be a long-term project, Browning said. It may not be possible to get the whole thing done in one pass and may require multiple SPLOSTs or a bond issue — although he said a bond issue was unlikely.
Scarlett explained the situation, saying the current courthouse, located at 701 H St. in downtown Brunswick, was at capacity when it opened in 1991. Since then, it’s only gotten worse.
Superior court, superior court clerk, state court, the state court clerk, magistrate court, the magistrate court clerk, district attorney, probate court, juvenile court, the Office of Alternate Dispute Resolution and public defenders all need office space, Scarlett said. Some offices have moved to other office buildings, including the probate court, juvenile court and magistrate court.
As the county grows, it will eventually need a new superior court judge as well, Scarlett explained. The courthouse barely has enough room for visiting judges, much less a new resident judge.
The situation is not yet at a crisis point, he said, but none of the courts or offices are operating at peak capacity due to the space constraints. The courthouse needs at least 108,000 additional square feet, more than double its current size.
Committee members floated some suggestions, including moving some facilities to the Glynn Place Mall or expanding the Glynn County Detention Center to accommodate some court functions.
Browning asked if the courts could move administrative functions out to create more courtrooms in the courthouse.
Scarlett said the various courts and offices should be as close together and as close to the jail as possible to operate at peak efficiency.
There’s plenty of office space in downtown Brunswick, Hartman noted, and near the courthouse.
In other business, the committee elected Basham as chairman and asked Scarlett to help them schedule a courthouse visit so they could speak with office staff and judges.
No date has yet been set for the committee’s next meeting.