The deal isn't done yet, but this is certainly a good sign.

PANAMA CITY — The county is one step closer to securing the future of the federal courthouse in Panama City.

At Tuesday’s Bay County Commission meeting, County Manager Bob Majka announced the General Service Administration (GSA) has selected the county’s bid as “the apparent successful offer.”

“It doesn’t constitute an award,” Majka cautioned, but it does mean the county’s proposal to turn the Juvenile Justice Facility on 11th Street into the new federal courthouse is currently the favored option of GSA.

It was also welcome news after the first choice by GSA - a piece of property with a different group on Luverne Avenue - fell through when the applicant withdrew, leaving only Marianna and the Bay County/Panama City proposal as options.

“We are glad that Bay County was chosen as next in line and we are able to have an opportunity to keep the courthouse here,” said Commission Chairman Bill Dozier.

At the meeting, the commission — who had looked over the the terms of the potential agreement before the meeting — authorized Dozier to execute the necessary documents with GSA to move the process along. Once the county sends the documents, GSA will review them and decide whether to execute a lease. If GSA executes the lease, the county will have secured the federal courthouse.

The details of the lease and negotiations are not public record until after GSA executes the lease, Majka said.

“At that point, we will be able to release the actual terms,” he said.

The county could hear back from GSA within a week, Majka said, but also emphasized “the ball is in their court.”

This review period is when a potential lease between Rooker Properties, an Atlanta-based company that had purchased land in downtown for the courthouse, and GSA fell apart last month. The Rooker option had been the top choice of GSA, until Rooker withdrew after not being able to deliver on certain tax incentives they had counted on.

When that fell through, there was a question of if GSA was going to turn to the county’s proposal, a proposal from Marianna or even to another unknown proposal.

This time, Dozier said he is “optimistic” the county and GSA will be able to come to an agreement.

The county as well as other stakeholders in the community have been working toward this moment since last year when the Federal District Court announced it would not renew the lease on the current lease current federal courthouse, 30 W. Government St., because of the problems with the building and threatened to shut down the Panama City division. The decision would have forced locals to travel to either Pensacola or Tallahassee for federal court appointments, federal jury duty, or anything involving federal court, and potentially cost the region 27 direct jobs and 100 indirect ones.

To save it, the county and partners created a proposal to turn the current Juvenile Justice Facility into the Federal Courthouse.

Using the money from leasing the juvenile courthouse facility to GSA, the county would pay down the debt on the juvenile facility and build a new juvenile courthouse on the same campus as the Bay County Courthouse.

While the new juvenile courthouse is being built, the personnel from the 11th Street facility will temporarily move into the former Panama City Hall, 9 Harrison Ave, which would be renovated.