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Lowndes County Courthouse Gets a Facelift

The most recent work done on the Lowndes County Courthouse: The columns that required replacing.

It has been a busy year for the employees of the Lowndes County Courthouse. They have been under construction for more than 10 months, but will soon be free from tarps, sawdust and the smell of paint, as the renovation is slated to be completely finished this week.
Conn Construction did the work on the courthouse, with help from JBHM Architects of Columbus who drew the plans. Conn also employed several subcontractors from the Golden Triangle area.
The project cost the city around $1 Million and almost a year to complete, but has not been redone sine 1976. The Lowndes County Courthouse stands at 505 2nd Avenue North.
Conn Construction Project Manager Lance Conn said that he and his team, around 40-50 local residents that were employed by the renovation, had quite the job cut out for them with the Courthouse.
They started around January 1, 2011 and had to work around the court schedules, be mindful of the historic architecture of the building, and deal with all of the courthouse employees still needing to do their jobs while they were working.
“It’s a bad memory now,” said Mahala N. Haley Salazar, Circuit Clerk, “We got used to the noise and the sawdust and the inconvience, but it was worth it. We all love the new offices.”
Salazar said that the cramped quarters had actually become a safety issue. “We were delighted that the Board decided to move some entities out of the courthouse and give us some more space,” she said. “We were all working on top of each other for the elections.”
But thanks to the new layout, they have a larger office, specific rooms for voting machine storage, and enough space to organize elections.
The renovation project wasn’t easy. Conn said the crew had to shut down completely four times for three weeks each for court.
According to Salazar, it’s been a “big year” for the Circuit Court. They’ve had five elections this year, relocated, had three terms of circuit court, and had county court constantly through the year. Adding in construction wasn’t easy, but they were able to pull everything off. She also said that it helped that Conn Construction was “delightful to deal with. Their workers became part of our family.”
“We are delighted to have the space to adequately serve the public and alleviate Circuit Court,” said Salazar. “That was an amazing procedure to watch them change these (offices) out. I think contractors did a great job and iI thank the supervisors for seeing that this was needed. This is a public office and if the people of Lowndes County have not been to see it, we invite them to come.”
In addition to completely renovating the Circuit and Chancery Clerks offices, Conn also re-did the Vault that hold records for the courts. The Vault has been expanded, computers have been added and a sliding filing system that holds 10 times the amount of paperwork that regular shelves do has been installed in the Vault and in other areas of the Courthouse.
Conn replaced floor coverings and re-painted most of the courthouse and added two new state-of-the-art jail cells that are accessible only by keypad entry. The Board of Supervisors has a new boardroom, the evidence locker has been redone and a waiting area has been added where the old Circuit Clerk’s office used to be. Conn also dealt with some roof leaks and, in an added project that made them have to extend their original Oct. 7 completion date, they had to replace the five pillars that stand outside the front East side of the building.
“We were originally only suppossed to replace one or two of the columns,” said Conn. “But when we started working on them we found that all of the wood was split and the plaster was bad.”
Conn replaced the 100+ year-old wooden columns with Permacast pillars, which will be resistant to the humidity and fare better to time and weather conditions.
The original Lowndes County Courthouse was built in 1832, but was build over in 1849 by James S. Lull according to Mona K. Vance, archivist at the local history department of the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library. She says that the historic building has seen many days, and even played base of operations to the Mississippi State Government during the Civil War after officials had to leave Jackson. The iconic clocktower was redone in 1901, and in a horrible accident, killed a man in 1908 when a weight from the clock fell onto him as he was sitting outside.
The employees of the Courthouse could not be more happy with the renovations made. Lisa Younger Neese, Chancery Clerk said. “We are so proud of our new office, we love it. It just makes everyone so happy when they come to work. Our new vault is beautiful, our new filing system is amazing. And, my door is always open, we invite everyone to come out and see it!”

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