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Courthouse under budget
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In 2006 the Dawson County Board of Commissioners initiated the necessary steps to determine the need for a new courthouse and administration facility. A company with expertise and a background in this type of project was hired by the county to research the need and to determine the size and scope of this project.


After conducting extensive research and reviewing current numbers and future projections, a program was developed that called for a courthouse and administration facility that would be approximately 110,000 square feet.


The estimates were that the construction cost for this size of facility would be more than $30 million and the total cost including land and other fees would be about $38 million. This was put in as one of several projects that were sent to the voters for consideration on the SPLOST V referendum.


On Nov. 6, 2007, the voters overwhelmingly approved SPLOST V by an 87.4 percent margin. Part of this vote included giving the county the ability to prefund the courthouse by issuing bonds. As a result, the board of commissioners borrowed the money on Dec. 13, 2007 to begin the project.


As the economy declined, so did our hopes of collecting the necessary money to spend in excess of $30 million on the construction of the courthouse.


These concerns led the county to establishing what is known as a “sinking investment fund” of $9.7 million with a portion of the borrowed money. This money will not be spent on the project, but can be used to assist in making the payments on the bonds.


The staff and the architectural firm hired to design the facility worked diligently to value-engineer every aspect of the project. Local steel, concrete and construction experts like John Packard were called upon to assist in the timing of the bid process to take full advantage of the dropping construction and material prices. The county also made the decision to increase competition among the bidders by prequalifying six top companies and allowing them to bid on the project.


The six companies did get competitive and the 111,000 square foot courthouse and administration facility that was expected to cost over $30 million to construct was awarded to Winter Construction for just over $15.4 million.


This price breaks down to $139 per square foot. This is the lowest per square foot price that anyone has found in at least the last 12 years in Georgia for this type of building. Winter is the same company that is currently building the Lumpkin County Courthouse and recently completed the Gilmer County Courthouse.


At this stage of a construction project it is recommended that you keep an additional 5-7 percent set aside as contingencies. This would cover unexpected change orders that will occur during construction.


Out of the abundance of caution the county has set aside twice this amount, 14 percent, to ensure that the project can be completed within budget.


I cannot say enough about the hard work of our dedicated staff and the architect firm of Rosser International. This fine group of individuals has spent countless hours and many sleepless nights worrying about this project. I feel confident that with this staff and a quality construction company like Winter, the citizens of Dawson County will be proud of their new courthouse when it opens in the summer of 2011.


We have faced many challenges together as a community during 2009. As this year comes to a close, I am optimistic about the opportunities that the New Year will bring us.


It is my sincere prayer that each of you and your families has a very blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year.


If I can be of service to you during this season, please call on me.


Kevin Tanner is the Dawson County manager, he can be reached at (706) 344-3501.