THOMASVILLE — The day after 70 percent of the electorate voted in a $36 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) found proponents pondering the hard work ahead and results that will not be realized for years.

Revenue from the six-year tax will fund a multipurpose county building and renovation/restoration of the historic courthouse built in 1858, the sixth oldest in Georgia and the oldest in continuous use statewide.

Revenue also is earmarked for recreation, library expansion and a communications tower, along with projects in Thomasville and in the county’s six smaller municipalities.

“It’s going to be a giant step forward for the court system in Thomas County,” Superior Court Judge Jim Hardy said Wednesday.

Courthouse security has been among the concerns voiced by county commissioners and judges.

“The courts belong to all the people in Thomas County,” Hardy said. The SPLOST vote will increase the viability and security of the courts, he added.

Money from the tax will not only restore the beautiful old courthouse, but add another beautiful building to downtown Thomasville, Hardy explained.

The office of the Thomas County clerk of court has been bursting at the seams for years. Records are stored in the courthouse basement, where a clerk’s office employee encountered a serpent during a records search.

“It will give us the opportunity to have a place to work and to efficiently serve the public,” said David Hutchings, clerk of court since 1981.

Records will be available and secure in the new building, Hutchings explained.

The multipurpose building will house courts and court-related offices and functions.

Hutchings said the office is undergoing a stop-gap measure to “hang on” until more space is available.

“We’ll work with it, and we’ll be fine,” Hutchings said. “We’ll be fine and dandy until the time comes.”

The clerk of court said Thomas County Commissioner Mary Jo Beverly, chairman of the commission public properties committee, “pulled it back together,” referring to efforts to rekindle a SPLOST push after the electorate defeated the question by 21 votes in March 2005.

Beverly said Tuesday night that one of the first post-SPLOST steps would be to reassemble the courthouse design committee, which would look at hiring an architect.

“I think our charge is quite simple at this point,” Charles Olson, courthouse design committee chairman, said Wednesday.

The design committee will work with county commissioners to retain an architectural firm. Several architects, a couple with historic preservation expertise, made presentations to the committee in recent months.

Olson, a residential designer who also praised Beverly’s efforts, said the high SPLOST approval rate reveals many things were happening on a lot of fronts.

“We built a network, and we built a team of people who care about the old courthouse and what the new courthouse would look like,” Olson explained.

Many people worked hard in anticipation of the SPLOST question being approved by voters, he said.

“I think this time the community was activated,” Olson said.

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

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