Columbus' judicial system braces for BRAC

By Roslyn Giles  - email | bio

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - When the Army announced in 2005 that the Armor School at Fort Knox, Kentucky would relocate to Fort Benning bringing almost 30,000 people to the area, known as BRAC-Base Realignment and Closure, Columbus city leaders knew change was on the horizon.

Skip Henderson, City Councilor, told News Leader Nine, the council immediately began to plan and scrutinize the budgets to see how they could make necessary adjustments.

It's now five years later and the much anticipated arrival of the Fort Knox families has yet to become a reality. "We've been planning for the increase in population since day one of the announcement, but I can't tell you that we are ready for a bus to drop a load of 30,000 people here today."

Henderson also said they've made steps to better equip the county's judicial system by adding personnel. "We've hired more people to work in the Solicitor's office, District Attorney's office, and we are looking at adding another Superior Court."

The current case load for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit which includes Muscogee County and five surrounding counties is astronomical said, Chief Judge, John Allen, Muscogee County Superior Court.  In Muscogee County alone, in 2009, we had almost 2300 criminal cases, not including civil cases."

Allen added, he's requesting another judge to join the bench increasing the number of judges to 7. The initial request goes to the Judicial Council, but the state legislature has final approval.

Sheriff John Darr, Muscogee County, said he feels the sheriff's department will be ready to handle the influx from BRAC. "We hope to expand the jail through funds from the LOST-Local Option Sales Tax. It's in the second phase. The first phase includes building the new Citizen's Service Center, Natatorium and a skating rink."

Darr also anticipates beefing up his manpower with an additional 6 deputies to be hired through LOST.  Six new deputies are already on the job. When the other six deputies are hired, taxpayers' dollars will have provided for 12 new positions at the sheriff's department.

In the meantime, you can see progress and tremendous growth in almost every area of Fort Benning.  New facilities at Harmony Church along Highway 27 are apart of a 3.5 billion dollar construction to be completed by 2014.  Fort Benning officials expect the Fort Knox families to start arriving by March and into August.

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