New Courthouse Expected to Open in September

Posted on August 17, 2022 by Romi White

Pictured left to right at the ribbon-cutting ceremony are: The Honorable Ross L. Bilbrey, Judge, First District Court of Appeals; The Honorable Jose Giraud,  Judge, Santa Rosa County; Santa Rosa County Clerk of Courts & Comptroller Donald Spencer; The Honorable Ken Bell, former Florida Supreme Court Justice; Distict 1 Commissioner Sam Parker; Commission Chairman Bob Cole; The Honorable Robert Hilliard, Judge, Santa Rosa County; District 3 Commissioner James Calkins; District 4 Commissioner Dave Piech; District 5 Commissioner Colten Wright; U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz; The Honorable Colie Nichols Jr, former Santa Rosa County Judget; The Honorable Paul Rasmussen former First Judicial Circuit Judget; and The Honorable John Miller, Chief Judge, First Judicial Circuit.

Former and current local dignitaries along with others gathered Wednesday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Santa Rosa County’s new courthouse, located at 4025 Avalon Boulevard in Milton.

“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said the Hon. Judge John Miller, chief judge for the First Judicial Circuit.

Commission Chairman Bob Cole opened the ceremony by thanking Ajax, Sam Marshall Architects and HOK for their role in the design and construction of the building.

Rev. Christopher D. McQueen provided an invocation after the presentation of the colors by the Milton High School NJROTC.

The Hon. Santa Rosa County Judge Robert Hilliard provided opening remarks, following the performance of the National Anthem by his wife, Lisa. “When this new courthouse fully opens, it will be the most technologically advanced courthouse in the country and is designed to securely serve our citizens with everything from adoptions to last wills and testaments and all that befalls us in the life that comes in between,” he said.

Former Judge Colie Nichols Jr attended the event with his sons Garth and Stan Colie Nichols, who is currently serving as Santa Rosa County Tax Collector.

“I am honored to be here on this glorious day when we open the new Santa Rosa County Courthouse,” said former Judge Colie Nichols Jr. “It is the culmination of a long and difficult journey going back 20 years.”

Graphic Courtesy Santa Rosa County Public Information Office 

According to Santa Rosa County, the current courthouse located in Downtown Milton was opened July 4, 1927 and remodeled in 1961 with modular buildings added on in 2008 to accommodate growth. The new courthouse on Avalon Boulevard consists of a three-story building, approximately 110,000 square feet, situated on 19 acres. This location will allow for future additions and two additional administrative office buildings to house the county court support services (state attorney, public defender, guardian ad litem and probation).

The new courthouse includes seven courtrooms, eight judge’s suites and all the necessary court support services including secure holding for inmates, hearing rooms, a law library, evidence rooms, jury selection and jury deliberation spaces.

“This courthouse will meet the needs of its people for decades to come,” said Donald C. Spencer, Santa Rosa County Clerk of Court and Comptroller. “It will be a pillar for Santa Rosa County. The old courthouse was used for almost 100 years and this new courthouse will last at least that long. I thank the BOCC for getting this courthouse built and I also thank the citizens of Santa Rosa County for their support.”

The Clerk of Courts services currently provided in the courthouse will be accommodated in the new facility along with conference rooms and meeting spaces for the state attorney and public defender offices.

Former First Judicial Circuit State Attorney Bill Eddins (pictured above with Clerk Spencer) said the new courthouse would be much safer. “It’s sad that our society has developed to the point that this kind of security if necessary.” Eddins also praised the facility’s technology, stating it would enable personnel to work more efficiently.

The courthouse is expected to fully open in late September.

Former County Commissioner Dave Kessler also attended. He’s pictured with Wright and Piech.