The Oconee County Board of Commissioners Tuesday night awarded a bid of $92,000 to Complete Demolition Services LLC of Carrollton for demolition of the Old Jail located behind the Courthouse in Watkinsville.
Commissioner William “Bubber” Wilkes cast the sole negative vote on the contract after Commission Chair John Daniell argued that expansion of the Courthouse into the space now occupied by the unused jail will provide for the needs of court services to at least 2050.
Commissioners Mark Thomas and Chuck Horton expressed regrets about destruction of the jail, built in 1905, but said it was necessary to allow for construction of a sally port, or a controlled, secure entranceway, for the Sheriff to move prisoners into and out of the jail.
In other action, the Board turned down a request by a developer of a subdivision on Malcom Bridge Road in the northwest of the county to be allowed to build houses on elevated slabs and a request by a landowner in the far south of the county to subdivide his property, which is on a gravel road.
The Board also heard a financial update for the first quarter of the 2018 Fiscal Year that included details on spending of revenue from the county’s three active Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax initiatives.
Comments On Jail
Three citizens, including Dave Shearon, elected that night as the incoming Mayor of Watkinsville, spoke about the historical value of the jail and the importance of preserving it.
Daniell said that the county will attempt to preserve artifacts from the building for future display but that the space is needed for Courthouse expansion.
The current Courthouse has 45,000 square feet of space, and the addition to be built on the site of the Old Jail will allow for an additional 9,000 square feet of space, Daniell said.
The county ultimately will seek to move administrative offices out of the Courthouse, Daniell said, but the expansion of the existing building will allow for the Courthouse to stay at its current site in the center of Watkinsville.
Complete Demolition Services was the low among five bidders for the project.
Daniell did not give a timetable for demolition to begin but said citizens will have a chance to obtain items from the jail that are not to be retained by the county for its historical displays.
The agenda on Tuesday night was dominated by zoning matters.
Mary Sue Simms Cox and Donna C McElhannon, 2291 and 2201 Malcom Bridge Road, asked the commissioners to modify the 2007 rezone for 100 acres they own that was to be developed as Malcom Bridge Estates.
The 2007 rezone ordinance had said the homes had to be built with basements or crawl space.
The subdivision was not built, and S.R. Companies of Cumming wants to buy and develop the property, arguing that crawl spaces have moisture problems if not maintained correctly and that slabs are the modern way to do construction.
The Planning Commission recommended denial in a 5 to 4 vote on Oct. 16. The staff of the county’s Planning and Code Enforcement Department also had recommended denial.
Representatives of the property owners and of S.R. Homes spoke to the Commission in support of the request, as did one citizen.
In the end, the Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 to deny the request
Jason Lawson of Baseline Surveying and Engineering in Watkinsville, representing Mercury Farms LLC, a 102-acre property on the south side of Hale Road between Salem Road and Carson Graves Road, asked the Commission to allow for division of the property into at least four parcels.
Graves Road is not paved, and the county’s Unified Development Code does not allow for the division of the property for sale and development without issuance of a hardship variance because of the roadway.
Three citizens spoke in opposition during the hearing on the request on Tuesday evening, saying they wanted to retain the rural nature of the area and that additional traffic of the road would be harmful.
The Commission was unanimous in denial of the request.
The Commission did grant a hardship variance to James H. Frazier to construct a guest house in front of the main house on his 7.6-acre property, 1424 Elder Road, southwest of Maxey Road and Elder Road.
Other Rezone Decisions
The commissioners approved a request by BCPC Holdings of Bogart to modify the zoning of 8 acres on Experiment Station Road on the eastern side of the Publix Shopping Center in Butler’s Crossing for a condominium office park.
The Commission also approved a request by Nations Church Assembly of God Inc. to allow for the construction of two office buildings over a portion of the existing parking lot. The property is at 8780 Old Macon Highway.
The Board also approved a request by Cat Creek Development Company to allow an assisted living component to be added to the office condominium complex already partially developed at 2881 Monroe Highway (U.S. 78) at Ruth Jackson Road.
All of these votes were unanimous. No citizens spoke during any of the hearings on these requests.
County Finance Director Wes Geddings told the Commission that the county currently has $11 million in its General Fund Balance, or its reserve account.
He said that both revenue and expenditures are on track for the months of July, August and September of 2017, which make up the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2018.
Geddings indicated that sales tax revenue are up in July, August and September of this year compared with last year.
A comparison, based on data from the Georgia Department of Revenue, shows that sales tax revenue collected in Oconee County from January to October of 2017 is down slightly from that same period in 2016, consistent with what the Board of Education was told last week by school administrators.
Geddings listed a number of SPLOST projects being funded this year, including $1.7 million in road maintenance, $1.7 million for Courthouse security renovation, $2 million for three multi-use fields at Oconee Veterans Park, and $2 million for a replacement for Fire Station No. 8 (Barber Creek Fire Station).
Geddings reported that $2.6 million remains in unspent funds from SPLOST 2004, $3.1 million remains in unspent funds from SPLOST 2009, and $5.0 million is in the account of the current SPLOST 2015.
I did not attend the Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday because I was at the Board of Elections and Registration Office across the street from the Courthouse, monitoring election returns.
Sarah Bell did attend the BOC meeting and produced the video that is below.
Zoning discussions begin at 6:25 in the video.
Discussion of the request regarding Malcom Bridge Estates starts at 22:05.
The Mercury Farms hardship variance request is at 1:15:25.
Discussion of the Old Jail demolition is at 1:37:30
Discussion of the Financial Report is at 1:58:01.