Saturday, September 04, 2021

Oconee County Commissioners Accepts Plan To Sell Two Properties Adjoining Courthouse That Will Become Surplus

***Reject Idea Of An Auction On Courthouse Steps***

Oconee commissioners agreed on Tuesday to take steps to dispose of two properties bordering the Courthouse in downtown Watkinsville that will become surplus once the planned administrative building is opened on Watkinsville’s northern edge.

One of those building is familiar to many voters because it houses the Elections and Registration Office at 10 Court Street south of the Courthouse and has been used as an early voting site in the past.

The other, at the corner of North Water Street and South Third Street on the opposite side of the Courthouse, is home to the county’s Operations and Facilities Office.

The Board of Commissioners tentatively agreed to advertise the two properties for sale and instructed County Attorney Daniel Haygood to go forward with plans for the sale.

Architects are still working on the allocation of space for the administrative building, and the county is evaluating responses to its Request For Qualifications of a construction manager for the administrative building project.

The Board of Commissioners is expected to award a contract for a construction manager at its meeting on Oct. 5, according to the bid documents.

The Request For Proposals requires the applicant to submit cost estimates and a construction schedule.

The total budget is set at $12.5 million, including furnishing and professional work, for a building with approximately 40,000 square feet of space, according to the Requests For Proposals.

Haygood’s Report

Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell told the other four commissioners on Tuesday that “we're going to have a few pieces of property that will be available for surplus.”

Operations And Facilities Office

Daniell said “one is the Ward Building right across the street and also the Elections Office.” The Ward Building houses the county’s Operations and Facilities Office.

Daniell said “We feel very confident” the county will not need the space once the new building is constructed so he had asked County Attorney Hayood to explore how this could be done.

“You've got two real options,” Haygood said.

“The first option is you run an ad in the paper for a couple weeks. You take sealed bids, and then at some point you open sealed bids.”

“The other option is you stand on courthouse steps and conduct an auction,” he said.

“We actually a long, long time ago tried that one time,” he said of the auction. “It didn't work at all, and we eventually had to sell that property by sealed bids.”

The commissioners didn’t want to stand on the Courthouse steps–or have someone do that for them–so they tentatively agreed to go forward with the sealed bids.

The item will be on the consent agenda at the meeting on Tuesday for a final decision.

Two Properties

The Office of Elections and Registration sits on 0.18 acres, according to county tax records.

The 2,450-square-foot building was constructed in 1996, according to those records.

The building and land have an assessed value of $216,971.

The Operations and Facilities Office is on 0.17 acres, according to tax records.

The 1,447-square-foot building was constructed in 1950, those records show.

The building and land have an accessed value of $171,283.

Questions From Commissioners

In response to a question from Commissioner Chuck Horton, Haygood said the county could set a minimum bid and could reject bids submitted it found unacceptable.

Elections And Registration Office

Commissioner Amrey Harden asked if the buyer could tear down the buildings.

“You could impose covenants,” Haygood said as a way of preserving the buildings.

Haygood told Harden that the city of Watkinsville would decide how the property would be zoned once it was no longer owned by the county since the city controls land use within its borders.

Status Of Plans

The county had a consultant draw up first renditions for the administrative building back in January, when it was expecting to co-locate the Oconee County Library on the site.

The Library Board decided instead to locate its new facility on the eastern side of Watkinsville in the mixed use commercial and residential Wire Park project now under construction. 

County Administrator Justin Kirouac told me in an email exchange after the Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday that architectural work on the now smaller administrative building is now underway.

“It's not finalized and, we don't have floor plans yet,” he wrote. “Once those are established, it will be further fine-tuned, and they can start working on exterior renderings and design.”

The site is a 7.3-acre-tract at the intersection of North Main Street (SR 15) and the U.S. 441 bypass that the county says will be easily accessible to the public without having to go through Watkinsville.

Other Action

The Tuesday night meeting was relatively brief, running only about 20 minutes.

The Board also put on the consent agenda approval of a $110,000 contract with Crowder Construction on Conyers for preconstruction services leading up to the planned doubling of the capacity to three million gallons per day of the Calls Creek Water Reclamation Facility.

Tim Durham, Water Resources director, said Crowder was selected after a Request For Proposals was issued for the services.

Crowder will help the county “more accurately determine project estimates,” Durham had told the Board in advance in a memo.

“One of their primary roles will be to perform constructability consulting and value engineering of the design through the 60 percent design document process,” he wrote.


The embedded video below was recorded by the county from it Zoom live streaming of the session and is on the county’s YouTube site.

The meeting starts at 2:30 in the video.

Discussion of the Calls Creek Water Reclamation Facility begins at 11:01 in the video.

Daniell introduces the discussion of the sale of the two buildings at 17:09 in the video.

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