I saw a candidate sign that seemed to me to say that our new county courthouse was wasteful government spending and that the county could have gotten along just fine with what we had.
People that used our old building or tried to keep it going know that the now gone courthouse was too small and at the end of its useful life and that it had no architectural value that warranted preservation.
A study in 2007 by CH2MHill engineers showed that the courthouse was inadequate and undersized for existing government operations, not to mention future needs.
The roof was too heavy and leaked in several places.
There was asbestos in the walls, ceiling and floor tiles. Other issues include the air conditioning, the plumbing, restrooms and prisoner transfer issues.
There was no room for people, much less storage. No action was not an option.
In August of 2007, the sitting commissioners decided to put forth a proposal to the residents of Dawson County through a SPLOST 5 referendum for a $50 million government center.
On Nov. 11, 2007, the residents of Dawson County voted yes to build the new courthouse by 87.4 percent. The question was put to the people in a purely democratic way and they said build it.
The board of commissioners examined every possibility in open public meetings from butler buildings to school house type construction.
The board of commissioners voted to build a traditional style building near the jail.
The square footage of the building was reduced when the economy went south and the population growth slowed.
The final construction cost was $16.2 million, which is $144 per square foot.
As a comparison, Lumpkin County just finished its courthouse last year at $210 per square foot.
Winter Construction Company told us upon completion that they have not seen, nor would they see, a government center built for this reduced cost.
Construction is only one type of cost for a building.
We paid lawyers, architects, engineers, testers, furniture suppliers, computer/electronic suppliers, landscaping and construction crews about $22.5 million.
The interest on the borrowed money debt was about $10 million total.
The total debt was known going in and the vote to incur that was unanimous by the board of commissioners.
Thank goodness for the North Georgia Premium Outlets and the businesses along Ga. 400.
People from outside our county are paying about 75 percent of the cost of the building.
The best part is that in 2015 the government center should be paid for completely.
In that year, Dawson County should have less than $2 million in debt.
Very few counties in the state can claim the same.
As a commissioner I never heard a motion in our meetings that was a specific suggestion as to how to save more money on the building and still accomplish the objectives we laid out at the beginning of the process.
I believe that the evidence says that we were good and careful stewards. I don't believe that we have wasted money entrusted to us. I think the majority of the residents believe the same.
I believe that campaign sign is wrong.
Gary Pichon is the Dawson County District 1 Commissioner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.