CONYERS – The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners (BOC) held a dedication ceremony for the new Probate and Magistrate Court Building on Tues., Dec. 1 at their location, 874 North Main Street NW in Conyers.
The program started with remarks from Probate Judge Clarence Cuthpert, Jr. and Magistrate Judge Phinia Aten, followed by comments from commissioners Sherri Washington and Dr. Doreen Williams. The dedication ended with Commission Chairman Oz Nesbitt Sr. delivering closing remarks before the Public Relations Department presented a video showcasing the needs of the Probate and Magistrate Court locations before they were moved to the current building.
The Rockdale County Probate Court was originally located within the county courthouse and had inefficient space for the court’s case load. It had no break room and had to share a courtroom with Juvenile Court. The courtroom did not accommodate all their needs, including a jury box.
The Rockdale County Magistrate Court was also originally located at the county courthouse, before being moved to 945 Court Street, where it remained for more than two decades. The Court Street location had no break room, had space and security issues, and the courtroom only seated 44 citizens. It also was not compliant with the American Disability Act.
The new North Main Street location, in the historic Clay Building, will house both the Probate Court and Magistrate Court, with both courts sharing a courtroom that has a jury box and accommodates 65 citizens. The location also has a break room, and more space to accommodate the courts’ case load.
In 2018 the county bought the Clay Building, directly across from the entrance to the county courthouse, for $345,000. The county included in its 2018 budget $700,000 for the purchase and renovation of the historic building built in 1900. The plan was to renovate the two-story building and move the magistrate and probate courts into it to give them more room.
But the renovation was put on hold while the county attempted to get a $140 bond referendum passed which would have built a new judicial complex adjacent to the current courthouse, and moved county administrative offices into the current courthouse. That referendum was defeated by county voters in May 2018.
The county went back to their original proposal for the Clay Building. A Request For Proposal (RFP) was sent out in May of 2019 for renovation of the building for the two courts. Lefko Development’s bid of $639,620 was approved in November 2019, with a 12-month timeframe to complete the work, which Lefko met.