MOULTON — Lora Dyar, a bookkeeper for Lawrence County Revenue Commissioner Tommy Praytor, said the old mold-ridden courthouse split some offices apart on different floors and was so small that lines stretched into hallways and down the stairs.
She no longer has to fret about space. The new Lawrence County Judicial and Administrative Center is roomy.
Offices in the $8 million, 46,000-square-foot, three-story building that deal with heavy foot traffic have expanded areas for lines. Employees said the center’s climate control is far superior to the old courthouse, too.
Circuit Court Clerk Sandra Ligon said the courtroom is the other major improvement; it now has a jury lounge for jurors during lengthy trials.
“Jurors used to have to stand up and down the stairs, and it wasn’t heated or cooled well,” she said. “That’s one of the biggest new things, the accessibility.”
The courtroom is named after Reneau P. Almon, the county’s first circuit court judge and a former Alabama Supreme Court justice. Almon died last April.
County officials have been in their new digs since Jan. 14.
The judicial center was first proposed in 2009 as a two-story annex for the tax assessor and tag offices.
The County Commission approved a $9 million bond purchase agreement for the annex and courthouse renovation that same year.
In 2010, commissioners voted to add a third floor to the annex and demolish an old post office building, the Star Theater and the Clark-Freeman building to provide parking. Construction delays and changes in plans caused two opening dates in May and September to pass by.
The cost for the two-story building was estimated to be $5.5 million. The third floor raised it to about $7.6 million.
“We came in a little over,” County Commissioner Joey Hargrove said.
The justice center houses judges, the circuit and district clerks, the revenue and license commissioner offices, the district attorney, the tax assessor’s office, tag office, and a law library.
The old courthouse stands empty in the courthouse square.
Hargrove said the commission is still “weighing its options,” but he hopes commissioners can move offices there after renovations.
“We hope to start renovating soon,” Hargrove said.
Aside from a few hiccups, workers said the transition to the justice center has been smooth. The building’s telephone installation was delayed, and the building still doesn’t have signs labeling which office is which, aside from some handmade signs on the license tag and revenue commissioner offices.
Ben Montgomery can be reached at 256-340-2445 or ben@decatur daily.com.