The Oconee County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to take up the Dolvin property again at its meeting tomorrow night, this time in the form of a possible renewal of its lease of the two buildings on the property that make up the Courthouse Annex in downtown Watkinsville.
That does not mean that the BOC will not decide to purchase the property or to enter into a lease/purchase agreement, as has been suggested in the past.
At this point, however, acquiring the property “does not appear to be a viable option for the Board,” County Attorney Daniel Haygood told me in a brief telephone conversation this afternoon.
Haygood said if the Board wants to discuss entering into a lease, it has to do that in a public meeting. Discussions about purchase of property, by law, can take place in an executive session that is closed to the public. The final decisions on purchase or a lease has to be made in public.
The BOC went into executive session after its agenda-setting meeting last week ended at 9 p.m.
Board minutes do not reflect what was discussed at the meeting or even how long it lasted, but County Clerk Gina Lindsey told me in an email message today that the meeting officially ended at 9:50.
The Board must come out of executive session and then vote in an open meeting to adjourn the regular session.
After its July 5 regular meeting, the Board also went into executive session, that time for 15 minutes. Haygood confirmed to me after that session that the Board discussed the possible purchase of the Dolvin property.
The BOC also went into executive sessions after meetings on July 26, Aug. 2, Aug. 30 and Sept. 27. The minutes give no indication what was discussed or how long the executive sessions lasted.
The county expressed an interest in the Dolvin property earlier in the year during discussions of the budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1.
Commissioner Jim Luke has been the most outspoken proponent of the purchase. Commissioner John Daniell has expressed skepticism about the action.
The land and two buildings are owned by 22 North Main LLC. The property is located at 22 N. Main St. across from the courthouse.
Ray B. Burruss Jr. of Athens is listed as the agent in the county tax records. According to those records, the current owner acquired the property from Elizabeth Dolvin in 2005.
Haygood said after the July 5 meeting that the asking price was $1 million, and that the offer for continued lease of the land was likely to be at a slightly lower rate than the current lease rate.
The property is approximately 0.6 acre. It’s assessed value as listed on the tax records is $662,491.
The first building, facing North Main Street, houses the Planning Department and Code Enforcement. The second building, on First Street, provides space for the Sheriff’s Office Investigator, the Environment Health Department and the coroner.
According to Alan Theriault, administrative officer for the county, the current lease requires the county to pay $6,942.60 per month, or $83,311.20 per year, for the two buildings.
Theriault confirmed today that the lease expires on Nov. 30.
At the request of the BOC, the Citizen Advisory Committee on Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee reviewed the possible purchase of the Courthouse Annex property back in June and voted to recommend that the Board go forward with the purchase.
When Lindsey reviewed the agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting at the end of the agenda-setting meeting last week, she did not mention the Dolvin property.
Theriault told me this morning in a telephone conversation that the possible lease of the property was added to the agenda on Thursday or Friday of last week at the request of Haygood.
Theriault told me he has sent no additional information to the five commissioners after the item was added to the agenda and didn’t anticipate doing so. Theriault often provides the commissioners with information on agenda items before the body meets.
The BOC will hold its next meeting on Nov. 29, the day before the current lease expires.
The agenda tomorrow night includes hearings on downzones to agricultural use of two properties in the county previously zoned for residential development.