THOMASVILLE — Just as a Thomas County commissioner remembers where she was when she learned U.S. President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated, a Thomas County Courthouse event remains equally indelible in the official’s mind.

With funding from state government, county commissioners enlisted Atlanta architect Jack Pyburn to conduct a space study of the historic Thomas County Courthouse.

On Monday, the commissioner, Mary Jo Beverly, recalled Pyburn’s words: “My recommendation is going to be to move the courts out of the courthouse.”

Beverly, chairman of the commission public property committee, pointed out 1984 Thomas County grand jury presentments that called for more administrative space for county offices.

“ ... Here we are 24 years later,” Beverly said during a Monday luncheon prior to a ground-breaking ceremony for the Thomas County Judicial Center.

Pyburn’s Atlanta architectural firm was chosen to design the judicial center and to renovate/restore the historic courthouse.

As commissioners made efforts to acquire more space, a movement got under way to construct a county office building away from downtown.

“We sort of haggled over that,” Beverly said. A decision was made to remain downtown and to connect with the existing 1858 courthouse.

Plans began to gather steam for a $21 million, 65,000-square-foot foot administrative building. However, in March 2005, a small voter turnout defeated the project by 21 votes.

Commissioners regrouped, reorganized, got back on their feet and put the question — on a smaller scale — back on a special purpose sales tax ballot in July 2006. The question was approved overwhelmingly with 70 percent of the vote.

“Today, we are going to break ground on a very handsome building,” Beverly said.

With a look to security, the structure at 325 N. Madison St. will be geared to minimal energy use.

Beverly said not to congratulate her the day of the groundbreaking.

When the judicial center comes in on time and on budget, she will accept congrats at the grand opening.

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

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