The Oconee County Board of Commissioners last night officially voted to end discussion of renovation of the Government Annex on SR 15 south of Watkinsville.
Commissioner John Daniell argued that the county should go forward with the latest plans for the building and was supported by Commissioner Margaret Hale.
Commissioners Chuck Horton and Jim Luke were opposed, as was Commission Chairman Melvin Davis.
The Board has been discussing since May a major renovation of the facility, which now houses the Public Works and Utility departments as well as an office of the United States Department of Agriculture and an adult education program of Athens Technology College.
The Board held a public session on the plans at the Civic Center on Sept. 21. At that time, several board members expressed concerns about the cost. One of the proposals was just under $2 million.
At its Oct. 26 meeting, County Administration Officer Alan Theriault brought forward a scaled back version costing $1.3 million. In deference to Commissioner Hale, who said she still needed more information, the Board agreed to postpone final action until last night.
Daniell, who has been a strong proponent of the renovation, gave a five-minute argument last night for the scaled back plan and then made a motion that the county go forward with the renovation. The motion was seconded by Hale.
That motion was defeated 3-2 with Horton and Luke voting against and Davis breaking the tie with his no vote.
Luke next made a motion, seconded by Horton, that the county cease planning for the annex renovation.
That motion was passed 3-2, with Luke, Horton and Davis voting in the majority.
Daniell used an estimate of $2 million in costs for the renovation by adding costs for a needed new roof and other code upgrades to the $1.3 million figure used by Theriault.
Finance Director Jeff Benko had proposed the plan to renovate the Government Annex back in May as a way of saving money on the current and future budgets.
The idea was for the county to vacate the Courthouse Annex, located across the street from the courthouse in downtown Watkinsville, and move the departments housed there to the renovated Government Annex.
The county leases the Courthouse Annex, referred to as the Dolvin property, and pays other expenses totaling about $105,000 per year.
Running parallel to the discussion of the renovation of the Government Annex has been discussion in the county’s Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee about the future of the county courthouse.
At a public meeting on Oct. 19, that group argued that the county needs to build a separate judicial facility near the county jail in the next 10 years. The committee estimated the cost at between $20 and 22 million.
That proposal came up last night as well.
Davis told Daniell he thought the proposal for the Annex renovation “was way to expensive.” Daniell countered that it was a lot cheaper than the proposed judicial building.
“I don’t have any alternatives at this point,” Davis responded.
Luke used the opportunity to express his views on the judicial building proposal.
“I have no intention, probably in my life time, of going out and looking at that judicial center,” he said.
Horton also said he wanted to be on the record as not wanting to go forward with the plan of the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee.
I have put the video of this entire section of the BOC meeting on my Oconee County Observations Vimeo site.