Lauderdale County looks to move forward with courthouse project

File photo

Lauderdale County Courthouse.

Representatives from Yates Construction pitched a proposal to the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors on Thursday, mapping out a plan of action for the county’s most pressing issue: its aging courthouse.

“I feel like we’re gaining some momentum, and I definitely want to keep moving forward,” said District 1 Supervisor Jonathan Wells. “I was impressed with [Yates’] last presentation, and this one just added some icing on the cake in my opinion.”

If hired, Yates would serve as a construction manager. The proposal states that if Yates were to partner with the county, its services would include assisting in procurement of architects; assessing the courthouse feasibility study, operations, unknown variables and constraints; and assisting the architect with a “high-level courthouse program,” which would include selecting a location, a budget, phasing and a master schedule.

Concerns such as parking, jail relocation and property redevelopment would also be addressed.

Yates would assist with the temporary relocation of courthouse staff to locations such as the old federal courthouse and the annex building. Lastly, Yates would provide recommendations for direction with the project.

“This is our backyard,” said Bill Yates of Yates Construction, which is based in Philadephia. “We would be as concerned with this project as any other we ever have.”

Yates said he could have a recommendation in a few months.

“During the process, we’re going to be developing where to put the workers," Wells said. "We could use the old federal building, annex or do a hybrid of all that. And once we break ground, we can move people into that. I see the original courthouse being one of the last things that gets finished.”

District 5 Supervisor Kyle Rutledge said he is still looking at all the options.

“There are just so many moving parts… We’re dealing with taxpayer’s money, so we’re making the best decisions we can because it’s going to affect taxpayers for 50 years plus.”

Rutledge was pleased with Yates’ presentation, but he doesn’t want to move too quickly.

“What scares me the most is completely restoring the old courthouse,” Rutledge said. “That does worry me about what that cost will be."

Local architects Bob Luke and Jerry Hobgood also attended the meeting. 

Hobgood told the board that he would like to see an “open process where all qualified parties have an opportunity to present their qualifications.”

County Administrator Chris Lafferty said “nothing is off the table,” as the supervisors have not made a decision as to who they would hire.

Luke, with Meridian-based LPK Architects, is favored by at least one supervisor.

“Personally, Bob Luke is local,” Wells said. “He has done work on buildings downtown like the Riley Center, and personally, I feel he’s qualified. At this point, I’m not sure what the board’s going to do as far as who to go with.”

Wells said he might consider making a motion to hire Luke as the architect for the courthouse project if “the proper paperwork is in place.”

“To be honest, I don’t know if the board is ready to move forward that fast. But personally, I’m ready to move forward,” Wells said.

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