The Oconee County Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 last night to move the Planning Department, Code Enforcement and three other offices out of the Dolvin buildings within the year but gave no indicate where it will move them.
Commissioner Jim Luke, who voted against the motion to terminate the lease for the Dolvin buildings, said he did so because he wasn’t confident the county would have a place to put those offices.
The Board of Commissioners last night also went into executive session with Atlanta developer Frank Bishop, who has been in discussion with the county over the last year about construction of an extension of Parkway Boulevard. That extension would make more accessible land Bishop has had under option across from Epps Bridge Centre, which he developed.
Also last night, the commissioners got an update from Jimmy Parker, project manager for the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir in southeastern Walton County.
Parker told the Board that design work on a water treatment plant for the reservoir was being initiated in case Walton and Oconee counties, partners in the project, get a request from a large industry for water from the reservoir. Neither county at present has a need for water to serve its residential customers.
The decision on what is commonly referred to as the Dolvin property came midway through the meeting when County Attorney Daniel Haygood reminded the commissioners that they needed to give a one-year notice if they wanted to terminate the county’s lease on the property.
Discussion of the termination of the lease had been added to the agenda only on Monday morning.
Officially, the buildings, across the street from the Courthouse in downtown Watkinsville, are called simply Government Offices.
Commissioner Luke said he was not confident the Board had a solution to the space needs and was concerned about ending the lease before things were more settled. The video below contains his exact words.
The commissioners have held four executive sessions in recent weeks on land acquisition and Courthouse security and most likely discussed the Dolvin lease termination during one or more of those sessions.
Commissioner John Daniell made the motion last night to terminate the lease in a year, which was seconded by Commissioner Mark Saxon. Commissioner Bubber Wilkes joined Daniell and Saxon in supporting the motion.
Across From Courthouse
The county has been leasing the two Dolvin buildings as the county’s need for space has increased.
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.
The county will have to find new space for these offices at a time when it is under pressure to move all the remaining administrative offices from the Courthouse itself and turn that building over entirely to judicial use.
The pressure to make that change increased when the legislature last month authorized a fourth Superior Court Judge for Clarke and Oconee counties. That new judge is expected to be appointed by a year from now.
The Board voted to go into executive session at the end of the regular meeting at 8 p.m.
The Board is required to specify the purpose of the executive session, which is closed to the public, and it stated that it would discuss land acquisition, personnel matters, and litigation, the three topics that can be covered in such a meeting.
As the Board left the Commission Chamber to head to the executive office of BOC Chairman Melvin Davis, where it holds its executive sessions, Bishop came forward from the rear of the room and joined them.
He was accompanied by Emil Beshara, the county’s Public Works director, who is in charge of county roads.
In the video below, shot at 8:38 p.m. from outside the Courthouse, Bishop can be seen actively engaged in conversation inside Davis’ office. Oconee County Deputy Clerk Kathy Hayes is to his right.
The executive session started at 8:05 p.m. and lasted until 9:15 p.m., according Hayes. She told me in an email message this morning that no action was taken when the commissioners returned to regular session before officially voting to adjourn last night’s meeting.
Bishop Requested Extension
The extension of Parkway Boulevard, which now ends at Kohl’s, has been requested by Bishop, who has said in the past that he holds an option on property to be crossed by the roadway.
The Parkway Boulevard extension would run from Kohl’s through to the Oconee Connector opposite one of the entrances to Epps Bridge Centre.
The BOC awarded a bid for design work on the roadway last September.
In discussions in January, cost of the roadway, which the county plans to pay, has been estimated at $4 million.
Project Manager Parker from the Hard Labor Creek reservoir began his 20-minute presentation with a broad overview of the 1,370-acre reservoir project, located north of Social Circle in Walton County.
Oconee and Walter counties are partners in the project.
Construction of the earthen dam is 98 percent completed, he said, and should be finished in June.
At that time, the reservoir will begin filling, a process that could take two year.
The project is about $5 million under budget, Parker reported.
The Management Board voted at its meeting on April 21 to begin the process of obtaining design work for a water treatment plant for the reservoir.
Parker estimated at that meeting that the costs of the design work will be about $625,000 and the work itself will take six to eight months.
The two counties will have to borrow additional money to construct the treatment plant as well as the distribution system to get the water from the reservoir to the two counties.
At the meeting last night, the scheduled presentation and discussion of updates to the Oconee County Water and Wastewater Systems Ordinance were delayed until May 26.
No explanation was offered for that change in the agenda.