Probate Court Judge Pat Hardaway smiled as she walked to the podium Friday morning.
"Isn't this beautiful?" she said, turning toward the immense brick structure behind her. "Just look at this. Aren't you proud of it? I just want you to remember this building belongs to you, each of you as taxpayers of Columbia County."
Columbia County officials cut the ribbon for the $11.6 million Justice Center on Friday - a ceremony officially opening the building that's been in use for more than a month. A more formal dedication ceremony for the building is scheduled for late November.
Superior Court Judges Neil Dickert and Lyn Allgood have moved their offices into the Justice Center, where the first Superior Court session will be held Sept. 9. Judge Dickert has already presided over hearings in the facility.
"We're very pleased," Judge Dickert said. "It's a very functional building, as well as being beautiful. The offices are well-equipped, and the audio-visual equipment is high-tech."
Former state Sen. G.B. "Jake" Pollard Jr., who followed in his father's footsteps as clerk of Superior Court, noted the contrast of the cramped quarters at the old courthouse in Appling compared with the greater space afforded by the new Justice Center.
"This is great," Mr. Pollard said. "This was needed long ago. People who come to court deserve a place like this."
Columbia County Commission Chairman Jim Whitehead cut the ribbon just before 10:30 a.m. Friday and led officials into the building for tours.
"Gosh, it's so beautiful," he said.
Reach Jason B. Smith at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org.