Stories that Bay County could lose it’s federal courthouse started surfacing late last year, as the lease on the current facility will run out in December 2018. U.S. Representative Neal Dunn revealed some new information on the possibilities in Washington on Tuesday.
“I think the immediate concern here is we might lose a courthouse in the central portion of the district, and I’m working very hard to prevent that outcome,” said Dunn.
For years, Bay County leaders have been preparing to build a new courthouse facility to replace the current building on Government Street in downtown Panama City.
In January, Congressman Dunn sent a letter of support to the General Services Administration on behalf of the Bay County Chamber of Commerce. He says he’s now learned the federal court system has not formally requested to move the courthouse and may not even be planning to build a new facility.
“We think it’s more likely that what we find is a facility that is suitable to refurbish and use for that purpose, and, of course, we want to see a facility remain in the central portion of the district because there’s a huge population that is literally over 100 miles away from those courthouses,” said Dunn.
Jackson County officials are making their own pitch to become the home to a new federal courthouse, should the GSA decide to move it.
“I’m working with all of the parties to find a solution that meets the needs of the central portion of the North Florida district there of U.S. Courts. We all want access to our judicial system in the center portion of the district, and I think we’re early in the process at this point,” said Dunn.
Dunn plans to meet with federal officials later this week. He also says he’ll have a hand in the final decision.
“Congress also needs to approve all of those decisions so I think we need to get in and get started on this so we have a long-term solution, in time, so we have a smooth transition to a new court facility,” said Dunn.
Whether it ends up in Bay County or Jackson County, Dunn says he believes the GSA will build something, as opposed to moving all federal cases to Tallahassee or Pensacola.