Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Discussion of Oconee County Courthouse Continues

Collecting the Dots

The Citizen Advisory Committee on Land Use and Transportation Planning spent a little more than an hour tonight once again discussing options for the county courthouse.

As was true last month, the discussion ended with Chairman Abe Abouhamdan saying that maybe next month–or maybe the month after–the committee would give its recommendation to the Board of Commissioners.

On March 31 of last year the BOC asked the citizen committee for advice on what the county should to do address future space needs for court and administrative functions of the county.

The Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee began discussion of the issue the next month and has devoted most of its monthly meetings since to the issue.

At tonight’s meeting Abouhamdan led the group through a discussion of the four options it listed at the January meeting: (1) Keep all government activities in one place, (2) Separate judicial and administrative activities, (3) Do nothing, and (4), Combine administrative operations with the Oconee County Board of Education.

Abouhamdan and Wayne Provost, the county administration’s liaison to the committee, argued that it would be advantageous to separate the court and administrative offices of the county.

Abouhamdan said it would be "a pretty expensive deal" to create a single facility, that it would "require a large tract," and that "some departments cannot be physically connected" to the courthouse because of equipment.

He mentioned Public Works as an example of an office that he felt could not be at the courthouse. Presently it is at the Government Annex south of downtown Watkinsville.

No support for the third option–doing nothing–was voiced, and board member Courtney Gale made a motion that the third option be dropped. Abouhamdan argued successfully against doing that because he wanted the record to reflect that it was discussed.

The fourth item was expanded to include retail space as well as space for the county schools and county government.

Abouhamdan said that would be "tremendous if it works," but he expressed doubt that land was available for that purpose.

Questions about the availability of land came up frequently during the meeting, and several committee members made reference during discussion of the fourth option to the decision by the Board of Education to purchase land on the north of downtown Watkinsville for future administrative offices.

Committee member Flynn Warren also said there was land available in downtown Watkinsville.

The committee agreed that it would rank the four options at the next meeting by placing "dots" next to them on a board at the front of the room. Each committee member would have a number of dots and would place the dots next to the options favored.

During the citizen comment period, at the very end of the meeting, I passed out printed copies of the story I posted here Sunday on land being offered for sale near the courthouse and on the land purchased by the BOE.

Abouhamdan then said the committee would continue its discussion next month, asked for a motion to adjourn, and ended the meeting.