A panel assembled by Chief Superior Court Judge Carl C. Brown has determined the shuttered law enforcement complex at 401 Walton Way is reusable as a juvenile justice center with $2.25 million in upgrades.
The handpicked group, which Brown said in December agreed to study the facilities at no charge, did not estimate the price tag to convert the complex’s six floors of jail cells. Those and three other structures at the site would be mothballed, at an estimated cost of $600,000, according to a copy of the panel’s report.
“It is my recommendation that Building A be renovated for use by the Augusta Judicial Circuit and the remaining buildings on the site be stabilized for future use and development,” wrote Augusta businessman James M. Hull.
“Demolishing these improvements would not be consistent with stewardship of this community asset,” said Hull, Brown’s lead on the study.
The study contradicts years of employee complaints and threats of litigation over the prevalence of mold and moisture in the buildings that prompted the government to build a new sheriff’s administration building, courthouse and jail. The last of the complex’s prisoners and staff relocated in 2013.
Years of employee complaints about moisture and mold in the buildings contributed to the government’s decision to build new facilities – the sheriff’s administration building, the new courthouse, the Webster Detention Center – and the last of the complex’s prisoners and staff relocated in 2013.
Building A, proposed for $2.25 million in renovations, is the 28,000-square-foot former court and office building that faces Fourth Street. The building’s problems – all of which can be fixed – include a failing roof system and exterior walls, moisture intrusion and elevators in need of modernization, according to a report from Augusta architects Chris Booker & Associates in the study.
“We suggest the remaining buildings to be re-roofed to help stabilize moisture intrusion and all unnecessary exterior penetrations to be closed, sealed and secured,” Booker said in the report.
In its portion of the study, Alternative Construction and Environmental Solutions reports that if water infiltration can be corrected, “prior mold and mildew concerns can be rectified,” but the building will require heating and air conditioning upgrades, creation of a “watertight building envelope” and a thorough asbestos inspection to be used.
Voters approved spending $1.5 million to demolish the complex on the 2015 Sales Tax 7 referendum, but since then Brown began a push to save and use it for juvenile justice programs instead.