Old Federal Courthouse building in Panama City will be auctioned off on Jan. 15.
PANAMA CITY — Anybody out there in the market for a slightly used, pretty dinged up federal courthouse building?
Believe it or not, there’s one on the market at 30 W. Government St., right in the heart of Panama City. At 11 a.m., Jan. 15, it will be offered for sale to the highest bidder.
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The courthouse, which opened in the early 1970s, according to Bay County Chamber of Commerce President Carol Roberts, is being sold to satisfy a portion of a $20 million debt owed by James Rudnick.
Rudnick, who owned the land and building and leased it to the federal government, has owed millions to various lending entities since a plan to build resort properties in Destin crashed with the housing market in the early 2000s.
Foreclosure proceedings were undertaken in 2010 in Okaloosa County, and on May 28, 2019, a writ of execution was signed that allows an organization known as AM32304WG LLC to sell off Rudnick-owned properties to recoup some portion of what is owed.
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“When you get a judgment in a civil case, it’s up to you as the plaintiff to go after every asset they’ve got and try to get it liquidated,” said Okaloosa County Clerk of Court J.D. Peacock. “The plaintiff is trying to recover their dollars by finding everything they can of value to get their judgment satisfied.”
Daniel Manausa with the Tallahassee-based Manausa Law Firm is listed as the managing partner of AM32304WG LLC. He declined comment on the sale of the courthouse building through another lawyer in the firm.
Rudnick did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Bob Hurst, an unofficial Panama City historian, recalled a couple of details about what he called “the old federal building,” including that Congressman Earl Hutto, who served 16 years, from 1979-1995, in the U.S. House, had an office there.
He said he once conducted a mini-tour of the grounds with a class of students, during which he pointed out the ancient live oaks surrounding the building. Security guards ran the group off, he said, because the area around a federal courthouse was too dangerous a place for children to venture.
The last viable days of the aging structure were not good ones. Federal officials had notified Bay County that they did not intend to renew the building’s lease when it ran out at the end of 2018.
Hurricane Michael, however, did in the structure before all of the federal employees had moved out. Roberts said she believed the roof of the building was torn away and the interior exposed to wind and rain. It has been vacant since the storm.
Roberts and the Chamber of Commerce were instrumental in securing a commitment from the U.S. Government to remain in Bay County by arranging a deal through which the county agreed to redesign a juvenile justice courthouse on 11th Street to house federal facilities and employees.
It is hoped the new federal building will open at the end of next year, Roberts said.
She said she worked closely with Rudnick during the time the Chamber of Commerce was fighting to ensure that the feds stayed in Bay County.
“He was always a pleasure for me to deal with,” Roberts said.
She said Rudnick never let on that he could lose the land and building at 30 Government St.
“We communicated last year and he asked me to keep an eye out for new potential tenants,” she said.