BAY COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) — After calling off the plans for a federal courthouse in bay county, the clerk of courts committee is working on restructuring.
Instead of having multiple court locations, the plan is to move them onto one campus by expanding the Mckenzie Avenue location.
Christopher Patterson, the Chief Judge for the 14th Judicial Circuit, said they have been talking about this expansion for years. He said since Hurricane Michael caused even more issues to the building, this is more needed than ever.
“We are down two courthouses, we are down two family law courtrooms and that is space that is desperately needed as well as office space for our employees,” Patterson said.
He said they plan to resolve their backlog of cases within the next two to three years, but they need the expansion to move forward.
“Once we have our full buildings back we are going to be in a position of strength to move our cases here in the state court,” Patterson said.
Bay County Commissioner Robert Carroll said this new facility will give employees the space they need to work efficiently. He said a part of this plan is to move the location of the Bay County Juvenile Justice Courthouse from 11th Street, to Bay County’s main courthouse on Mckenzie so everything will now be in one central location.
“There was an old annex building that was torn down from the hurricane,” Carroll said. “We will put the addition there and it will tie the juvenile justice into the courthouse here.”
Carroll said having everything in one place makes the most sense. That way judges do not have to go back and forth and the public knows exactly where they need to be.
“Operations are in the same place, it’s less confusing for people that need to come to court,” Carroll said.
He said construction could start within the next two months.
However, the issue remains of what the county will do with the unused juvenile court building. Carroll said they still don’t know.
“GSA has canceled the contract they are not going to put the federal courthouse there at this time,” Carroll said. “So we are looking at other options on how we can repurpose that building.”
He said having a federal courthouse in bay county is important, and they are hopeful it will happen in the future.