THOMASVILLE -- Anything definitive about rehabilitating the Thomas County Courthouse and construction of a new judicial building is at least six months away.

Maybe longer, Thomas County Commission Chairman Josh Herring told members of Thomasville City Council Monday. Knowing needs and costs could be a year away.

On Tuesday, commissioners chose an architect who will determine costs and needs. His work will require months of study.

A referendum for a sales tax to pay for rehabilitation and the new structure could be two years away, Herring said, adding that citizens want to know how the project will be funded.

"We would have to pay for it with a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST)," Herring told councilmembers. " ... This is down the road."

The chairman said he does not think any county commissioner would endorse funding the work through property taxes.

Herring pointed out to councilmembers the city's need for space conducive to conducting business more effectively and efficiently. The result was the new administration building on Victoria Place, he noted.

Mayor Rick Singletary expressed concern about parking for county facilities.

"Our biggest concern is parking downtown," Singletary said. " ... Right now, the courthouse has limited parking."

The courthouse, in the heart of downtown Thomasville, has 20 or fewer on-site parking spaces.

Herring told councilmembers some parking, such as secured spaces, is being considered for under the proposed judicial building.

Security is a concern in the courthouse. The issue would be addressed in a new building.

Courtroom security could be vastly improved, and needed space would be available in a new structure for judges, the district attorney's office, public defenders and court records.

"They've just outgrown what we've got there," Herring said during the council workshop. "Structurally, we've got a lot to do to the courthouse."

Commissioners want to return the 146-year-old building to the status of an 1888 renovation, but the work must accommodate today's technology and other requirements of county government.

The Thomas County Courthouse is one of the oldest in Georgia and the oldest in continuous use statewide.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 220.

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