Exclusive Federal Courthouse Update

Exclusive Federal Courthouse Update

BAY COUNTY, Fl - County leaders are finalizing a proposal in their efforts to keep the Federal Courthouse from leaving Panama City.

The proposal will be on next week's Bay County Commission agenda. County officials told News13 in an exclusive interview, that they are a lot more hopeful than they were in March. That's when Federal officals told them the Federal Courthouse and approximately 100 workers employed there would be leaving Bay County.

The departure would take place when the government's lease on the current Federal Courthouse building on Government Street is up in December 2018. Members of a special committee, that's been working on this issue since late last year, aren't giving up on keeping the courthouse and the jobs. Bay County

Commissioners will consider a plan that would have them rent the Juvenile Courthouse on East 11th Street in Panama City, to the Feds to use as their new courthouse. The rent would be over half a million dollars a year.

The county would then float a bond issue to raise money to build a new juvenile courthouse using the rent money to pay down the bonding debt.

"That will be one item, another item on the consent agenda is asking the commission to give my office the authority to begin the design build process," said Commissioner Guy Tunnell.

If federal officials agree with the proposal, they would take over the Juvenile Courthouse in January of 2019. But that is not enough time to build a new Juvenile facility.

County Manager Bob Majka says it will be a little inconvenient and take some patience.

"But we've done it before when we built the annex to the current courthouse facility" Majka said.

As for the new Juvenile Courthouse, it could be built on a county-owned piece of property near the corner of East 3rd Court and McKenzie Ave.

Of course all of this depends completely on the Federal Government buying in to this proposal.

"It's my understanding that two of the federal judges have been through that facility and toured it, very positive response. But no one is committed to anything yet," Majka said. 

The Bay County Chamber of Commerce has hired former Congressman Steve Southerland to lobby Federal Officials on behalf of the Courthouse project.

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