Commissioners last week saw preliminary site plans for the county’s proposed new courthouse and heard a request to consider re-investing a portion of the courthouse bond to yield a higher return.
The three courthouse options revealed two proposals that utilize property currently owned by the Turner family at the intersection of Hwy. 53 and Shoal Creek Road, which the county had initially proposed for condemnation.
A third option, at a cost of about $29 million, would eliminate the need to purchase the Turner land and would allow for the courthouse to be built farther north on Shoal Creek Road, adjacent to the current jail.
Mike Turner, who submitted plans to the city of Dawsonville over the summer to develop a business office park on the proposed site originally proposed by the county for the courthouse, said option three is by far the Turner family’s pick.
“We support each version, subject to conditions and subject to final agreements,” Turner said.
However, he told members of the Dawson County Board of Commissioners last Thursday, option three is in the “best interest of the citizens of Dawson County.”
Additionally, Option No. 1, which calls for a parking deck across Shoal Creek Road at a cost of $33 million, would hinder the development of a bed and breakfast the Turner family plans to operate in the future out of the family’s home on Tucker Avenue, Turner said.
Option No. 2, which would use a portion of the Turner property, is an amicable compromise, Turner said.
The second option, at $29.6 million, calls for the construction of a new courthouse adjacent to the current courthouse, which would be demolished within 24 months.
The Turners would then be able to construct the second phase of their office park on the land where the current courthouse stands.
“This is the way responsive government operates,” Turner told commissioners, citing several meetings his family had with the county over the last few weeks.
On Thursday officials will discuss the different cost options of all three versions and give direction on how to proceed with the $40 million 1-cent sales tax approved project.
District 1 Commissioner Gary Pichon and District 3 Commissioner Mike Connor both expressed concern with the economy’s current state in their considerations of the courthouse options.
“Is there an option four?” Pichon asked.
Connor recalled the original plans for the courthouse and administration buildings called for constructing a new courthouse, while utilizing the current courthouse after an extensive renovation for the county’s administrative offices.
Rosser International, the architects contracted to design the courthouse, stated the current courthouse has numerous structural issues that would cost more money to repair and remodel than to tear down and rebuild. Constructing a new courthouse would save $166,374, according to Rosser.
“Whatever we do and whatever the considerations given, a lot will have to do with the budget and the amount of money the options would cost,” said Dawson County Manager Kevin Tanner.
A bonded special local option sales tax project, the construction of the courthouse, when approved, was based on what the county anticipated receiving from future collections of sales tax revenue.
The staggering economy has led to lower than anticipated revenue coming into the county.
“We’re continuing to monitor that situation,” said Tanner.
Tanner has asked commissioners to consider investing a portion of the courthouse bond into higher yielding certificates of deposit to maximize interest earnings on the capitalized interest portion of the courthouse project proceeds.
The collateralized CDs would be protected at 110 percent, Tanner said.
Currently invested in GA Fund One at 2.24 percent, a 3.46 percent return would yeild $930,575 on a 7-8 month CD and help provide additional project funds through interest earnings, Tanner said.
The hope, Tanner said, is to not owe anything when the courthouse is completed. “We plan to bring it on time and under budget,” he said.
Both the courthouse plans and the reinvestments of the bonds are on the budget to be voted on by the commissioners during Thursday’s regular meeting.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.