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New Washington County Courthouse: $9 million

Wikipedia Wikipedia

Jackson Hospital in Marianna ($11.4 million) wasn’t the only place celebrating a major appropriation signed into the state budget last week by Governor Rick Scott. Thanks to the efforts of the Washington County Commission, State Representative Marti Coley, State Senator Don Gaetz and Scott-- who permitted the nearly $9 million to remain in the state’s $77 billion budget--a new courthouse will be built in Chipley.

History buffs will not appreciate the fact that the historic old courthouse, built in 1932, is coming down. According to Wikipedia, it was built in Chipley in the classic revival style (with its glorious Greek columns) after Chipley won a 1927 referendum to move the county seat from Vernon. The courthouse is listed in A Guide to Florida’s Historic Architecture, published in 1989 by the University of Florida press. But the Washington County Commission decided back in February of this year that due to the severe damage to the base structure as well as positive reading from black mold—leaving the courthouse considered unsafe for occupancy—the old building should be demolished. All courthouse employees have been working at an annex since vacating the building last December. Since then, no one has been allowed inside.

Commissioners soon will be taking bids for the new courthouse, to be built at the same site as the old building and the adjacent old jail. Preliminary cost estimates for the appropriation were put at $250,000 for demolition of the old jail and existing courthouse, $7.5 million for construction of a new courthouse of 30,000 sqare foot at $250 per square foot, $360,000 for site development, $202,750 for contingency and $498,765 for planning. The total is $8,811,515.

Washington County also is celebrating the inclusion in the state budget of millions for the new Kate M. Smith Elementary School, to be built in Chipley between South Boulevard and Brickyard Road. Coley and Gaetz also helped secure that funding. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held there last month. According to plans, the construction is expected to total $33 million. That will be funded over a three-year period with the state contributing $9.2 million and the county funding $4.4 million in capital outlay each year. Completion is expected in 2016.

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