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Government Center price tag: $22.5 M
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Five years after voters approved a special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to fund a courthouse and administration building, Dawson County officials last week unveiled the new Government Center, reporting a final project price tag of about $22.5 million.

That $22.5M figure accounts for all costs related to the project, from initial land purchases and architectural design to the bricks and mortar of the building itself to the furnishings, fixtures and security equipment inside to the landscaping outside. It also includes some monies not yet spent for demolition of the courthouse being vacated in favor of the new building and construction of a secured judges parking lot in its place.

With the month-long moving process well underway and demolition of the countys second courthouse scheduled for February, Dawson County Manager Kevin Tanner said the project will come in about $15.5M under the original budget of $38M.

Coming in 41 percent under budget on a project of that scope was largely a function of the poor economy, according to Tanner. SPLOST revenues reflect spending in the county, so as the project got underway in 2008 and spending continued trending downward, county officials were concerned SPLOST revenues would not meet initial projections.

Throughout the project we kept whittling down the budget as we saw that SPLOST collections werent coming in as expected, Tanner said.

(The savings were) primarily due to the economy, said Bob Ivey, Dawson Countys director of special projects, who served as project manager for the Government Center. We initially had 31 companies wanting to bid the job. Also, all the contractors and subs margins were extremely thin, and commodities, such as steel, were at the lowest weve seen in years.

The project, when first bid, came in under the anticipated budget, Tanner said. There was a lot of concern early on that wed have to use all the contingencies or that the contractor would make up for the low bid with a lot of costly change orders. That didnt happen. In fact, only about 25 percent of the contingency funds was used.

Beyond the economic conditions, Tanner credits the cooperation of the county staff, contractor Winter Construction, and architects Rosser International with keeping the project under budget.

Dawson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Berg, who told Grand Opening attendees last week that Tanner is known for squeezing a dollar out of a dime, also pointed out since the project was funded by SPLOST revenues, most of its cost was paid for by people from outside the county who come to Dawson to shop.

Thank goodness for the North Georgia Premium Outlets mall, he quipped, referring to the malls regional draw.

SPLOST V, which included the Government Center as the primary project to be funded, also included a secondary purpose of debt reduction.

A special reserve accounta sinking investment fundwas set up to pay remaining debt service on the old jail and parking lot, Tanner explained. With roughly 6M set aside in that account, both of those bonds can probably be paid off by the end of 2012, Tanner said.

The money left in the construction contingency funds and the unspent SPLOST revenues will go toward debt service on the Government Center, Tanner concluded. If all goes according to plan, the final payment on the Government Center will be paid in 2015.