PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — The plans for a federal courthouse in Panama City aren’t dead but appeared to be on life support Friday.
The US courts administration has refused to occupy the Juvenile Justice Center, which was being prepared for use as a federal courthouse. A letter from the General Services Administration (GSA) told Bay County leaders Thursday that they were seeking to terminate a lease for the building immediately.
“We have no idea what this news means to the future of the federal courthouse in Panama City,” said Carol Roberts, the President and CEO of the Bay County Chamber of Commerce.
The letter comes almost a year after a federal judge sent a harshly-worded letter refusing to occupy the facility citing health and safety concerns. He called the project “an unmitigated disaster from the beginning.”
County leaders say they’ve tried to work through those concerns with the GSA to continue renovations. But now, federal court officials said they will not use the building and the GSA said no other federal agency will either.
They’re asking to end the lease immediately and for the county to stop any additional work on the facility.
Roberts and other members of the court steering committee said the path forward is unclear.
The GSA said they’re willing to work with the county in recouping it’s investment already made in this building.
A statement from the Bay County Commission said the steering committee will meet as soon as possible to discuss next steps for the 11th street building and the proposed new facility on the Bay County Courthouse campus.
“We are in receipt of a request from the federal government to discontinue the signed lease agreement for the Juvenile Justice Courthouse building on 11th St. for use as a federal courthouse. The Bay County Courthouse steering committee will meet as soon as possible to discuss next steps for the 11th Street building and the proposed new facility on the Bay County Courthouse campus. The federal government has indicated its intent to assist Bay County in recouping its investment in the building, and we are confident that an amicable resolution will be reached for all parties involved,” they wrote.