Feud brewing over DA’s location

Feud brewing over DA’s location


A battle is brewing on the Madison County Board of Supervisors to find a permanent home for the District Attorney’s Office, with at least one supervisor wanting the office to be located in the county seat of Canton, no matter the cost. 

After being flooded out of their Canton office and then working in the upstairs hallways of the courthouse for a year, the District Attorney’s Office signed a three-year lease for a building in Madison until a permanent home can be found. 

Their new home could be decided as early as next month, with supervisors asking for the county administrator to present a myriad of options. 

District 5 Supervisor Paul Griffin said if the office isn’t going to be located in Canton, it won’t be receiving his support. 

“I think the DA should be in the county seat like he is in the other counties,” he said. “He moved out of the county seat just because we couldn’t find a building here in Canton.”

For Griffin, the only options are putting the DA in the old Fred’s building the county has purchased and rehabilitated or building a new annex adjacent to the courthouse. The cost for the annex is estimated between $6-7 million, while final numbers for Fred’s renovation aren’t available. 

“Purchasing a building anywhere outside the county seat won’t be receiving my vote,” Griffin said. 

District 2 Supervisor Trey Baxter said that didn’t make good business sense after being told by County Administrator Greg Higginbotham that the going rate for government construction was $500 per square foot. 

“Guys, that’s not good business,” he said. 

Assistant DA Ashley Allen told supervisors that it would take 41 years to lease the current Madison space before they spend $6 million. 

She said the Fred’s building only has 4,800 square feet available and their space is nearly 6,500 square feet. 

“We fill up the entire building,” she said. 

Allen said they are in court once a week, but the Madison location actually serves the county best since the majority of their cases are coming from the southern end of the county. She said everything they do from a court filing perspective is done electronically so there isn’t a need to be at the courthouse every day. She added that they still have a big presence in Canton at the courthouse. 

Allen was asked how much it would cost to purchase the building they are in and she estimated it would likely be around $3 million. Higginbotham confirmed that was a good estimate. 

The building they are currently in has a first floor of nearly 6,500 square feet currently occupied by other tenants and a third floor loft, bringing the square footage to over 13,000. 

District 1 Supervisor Casey Brannon asked for options to be presented for the county to buy the current DA building and then relocate some of the tax assessor and tax collector employees to the new building in an effort to best utilize space and save taxpayers millions of dollars. 

Brannon said the Youth Court has expressed interest in the Fred’s building and that would better serve taxpayers and the community for it to all be in one location there. 

“I want the county to make decisions that make sense, both fiscally and spatially,” he said. “Us building buildings is by no means an asset to taxpayers of Madison County when we can spend money in other needed places.”

Higginbotham was tasked with bringing back several scenarios, including renovating the Fred’s building’s existing 4,800 square feet, adding to make it 6,500 square feet, building a courthouse annex, and even buying the Madison building. 

Board President Gerald Steen told supervisors to communicate with Higginbotham any other options they would like to have for presentation at the second meeting in July. 

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