A subcommittee of the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority is meeting tomorrow (Monday) to discuss how to respond to expressions of interest from at least three companies in the county’s Gateway Technology Business Park on SR 316 on the southern edge of Bogart.
J.R. Charles, Oconee County Economic Development director, told the IDA members at their regular meeting last month of the “prospect activity” regarding Gateway by three companies he identified only by code name.
The subcommittee met in a minimally publicized meeting on Oct. 31 to discuss those prospects, and that same group is scheduled to meet again tomorrow at 3 p.m. at the Chamber of Commerce Office, 55 Nancy Drive in Watkinsville.
Charles told the IDA that last month that two of the companies were interested in the possibility of leasing a building that was constructed by the IDA.
The IDA itself is to hold its regular meeting at 4 p.m. tomorrow, also at the offices of the Chamber of Commerce.
At the Oct. 9 meeting of the full IDA, Charles identified the three prospects as Project Spectrum, Project Sauce, and a broker-represented company.
|Waller, Charles, Perkins, Elder (L-R) 10/9/2017|
Project Spectrum is looking for a 50,000-square-foot-facility that would bring 50 jobs, Charles said. The company is interested in leasing a building constructed by the IDA or building the facility itself.
Project Sauce is looking for a 60,000-square-foot-facility that also would bring 50 jobs to the area. The company is interested in buying five acres of land in the park or leasing a building, Charles said.
The broker-represented company is considering multiple counties in the area around Interstate 85, Charles told the group.
Notes of the subcommittee meeting taken by Charles and that I obtained from an open records request I filed with the county indicated the discussion at the Oct. 31 subcommittee meeting focused on Project Sauce.
IDA Chair Rick Waller appointed a subcommittee at the Oct. 9 meeting to look at what to do with Gateway East, which is one of the two larger tracts in the Park. The county has owned the four parcels that make up the Park since 2000 and has only one tenant, Alexion Pharma.
Members of the subcommittee are John Daniell, Matt Elder, Don Phillips, Janet Jones, Ed Perkins, Charles and Waller.
At the end of the meeting on Oct. 9, the group elected Daniell, Board of Commissioners chair, as subcommittee chair.
It was that subcommittee that met on Oct. 31 and is meeting again tomorrow, though the notice of the meeting on Oct. 31 and for tomorrow did not specify the composition of the subcommittee or its purpose.
The agenda item for the subcommittee listed for tomorrow’s meeting is “Discuss options for development of Gateway Technology Business Park.”
According to minutes of the subcommittee meeting on Oct. 31 that I obtained on Friday through an open records request, those in attendance were Daniell, Phillips, Elder, Perkins, Waller and Charles.
The subcommittee reviewed cost estimates provided by Phillips and Charles for the construction of metal industrial buildings and the cost of construction of tilt-up concrete buildings.
Separate documents I received from the open records request indicate the cost provided by Phillips was $14.85 to $15 per square foot for a metal building and by Kajima Building Group $3.4 million for site work and building construction for a concrete building.
Both estimates were for 60,000-square-foot structures.
According to the draft minutes of the Oct. 31 meeting I obtained, the “subcommittee members discussed various means of developing the industrial park, primarily whether the Development Authority should invest in the construction of industrial buildings as a means to produce revenue for the Development Authority.”
IDA projects are funded by money raised by bond sales, from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue, and from rental on the Post Office building in Watkinsville.
The County is obligated to pay to retire bonds issued by the IDA, and the county built the building leased by the Post Office.
The minutes of the subcommittee meeting indicate that Charles was instructed to “Secure a sale/lease agreement that would govern a proposed transaction on an industrial building. Additionally, discover market capitalization rate for various classes of industrial buildings.”
I attended the regular meeting of the IDA on Oct. 9 but not of the subcommittee meeting on Oct. 31.
The notice of the meeting of the subcommittee Oct. 31 appeared on the Agenda Center page of the county web site, but not on the county calendar, which is on the Home page of the county site.
The Agenda Center page is buried deep in the web site, and the notice of the IDA meeting was far down that page, under the IDA.
I subscribe to the IDA meeting notification page, but I did not receive an email notice of the Oct. 31 meeting.
Economic Development Director Charles sent an email notice on Oct. 24 to the editor of The Oconee Enterprise, and the paper contained a report of the Oct. 31 meeting on page A3 of its Nov. 2 edition.
I received a notice about the two IDA meetings tomorrow (Monday) a week in advance.
Notice For Oct. 31 Meeting
Economic Development Director Charles sent an email message at 3:35 p.m. on Oct. 24 to County Clerk Kathy Hayes and Assistant County Clerk Tracye Bailey informing them of the Oct. 31 meeting and attaching an agenda, according to the information I obtained from my open records request.
Charles copied that email to County Administrator Justin Kirouac and to the Enterprise.
The Enterprise does not cover IDA meeting regularly and was not at the IDA meeting on Oct. 9.
Sarah Bell and I consistently attend IDA meetings and video record the sessions for the IDA Channel on the Oconee County Observations Vimeo site.
I have informed the IDA of that channel and of our intent to record all IDA meetings.
I also have complained in the past when Waller prematurely closed a meeting of the IDA to the public.
The video below is from the IDA meeting of Oct. 9, 2017.
The report by Charles on the prospects at Gateway is at 23:02 in the video.
OCO: IDA 3 13 2017 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.
I want to add some clarification to the sentence, "The Enterprise does not cover IDA meetings regularly and was not at the IDA meeting on Oct. 9
The Oconee Enterprise has a small staff of only two news reporters. On occasion, neither of those reporters can make it to a particular government meeting. As readers of this blog know, there are a lot of government meetings and October, in particular, is a very busy month in the newspaper business.
The Oconee Enterprise under the leadership of Blake Giles did attend IDA meetings on a regular basis. Under the leadership of Michael Prochaska, there have been meetings with no newspaper presence.
I intend to do a better job attending IDA meetings going forward. I will be at the meetings today.
- Michael Prochaska
Appreciate your keeping us informed on these developments which required open records requests. Seems like these decisions should be more transparent.
Zippity - I don't understand what you mean by "more transparent.". The meeting was publicized on the county's agenda website, it was advertised to the press, and it was written about in last week's paper. If you wanted, you could attend these meetings to hear the discussion and see every document being handled. Just because Lee used open records requests to play catch up doesn't mean there was any clandestine action.
The unsubtle hints about the IDA meeting schedule and agenda are well worth the blog's space. There is no surprise that public input or media attention is not really welcome. There is much to criticize in the IDA "activities."
Now there is "interest" in buying or leasing or exploring or something, so let's finally make the property attractive to industry.
That much was obvious 30 years ago.
Instead of commissioning a study about how to make it attractive at long last, how about a study if being in the Gateway Park business in the first place makes sense anymore?
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