Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Ribbon Cutting For New Oconee County Administrative Building Draws Large Crowd

***Tours Show Off New Building***

A lively crowd of local government leaders, county employees and their families, former employees, and local residents filled the atrium of the new Oconee County Administrative Building on Tuesday afternoon for the building’s official ribbon cutting.

County Administrator Justin Kirouac did the honors, at the request of County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell.

“We’re going to ask Justin to do the ribbon cutting for all of his hard work on everything he has done,” Daniell said.

Kirouac, in his comments to the gathering, said the building “is for Oconee County, for the citizens,” and provides “a one-stop shop for our community, a central gathering place, and, for the best staff in the state, the ability to work collaboratively.”

Kirouac also said the county was able to consolidate four other “ill-fitting structures” and sell three of those, putting them back on the tax rolls.

Kirouac was surrounded by Commissioners Mark Thomas, Chuck Horton, Mark Saxon, Amrey Harden, and Daniell, as he used the oversized scissors to cut a large blue ribbon that only moments before had been stretched in front of him.

Architect Adam Glenn, and Mark Sutter and William "Peanut" Schell from Mathias Corporation, the contractor, joined the group for the official cutting.

Characteristics Of Building

The Administrative Building, with the official address of 7635 Macon Highway, opened to the public on Monday, and it houses all non-judicial government functions.

Kirouac Cutting Ribbon 7/25/2023

Those previously were located at the Oconee County Courthouse in downtown Watkinsville, at the Government Annex on SR 15 on the south side of Watkinsville, and at the Elections building and Ward building on the sides of the Courthouse.

The Annex, Elections building, and Ward building have been sold, and the Courthouse has been turned entirely to judicial functions. 

The two-story, 44,000 square foot Administrative Building faces south toward Watkinsville and is accessible via a newly built roundabout at Summit Grove Drive and what is officially Macon Highway.

North Main Street, which also is SR 15, becomes Macon Highway when it leaves the city limits.

Hill Folli Rossi and Associates of Duluth were the architects.

Mathias Corporation of Lawrenceville had the $14.8 million construction manager at risk contract for the project, which, Kirouac said on Tuesday, will come in under bid. 

The county purchased the 7.63-acre tract for the Administrative Building in 2019 for $650,000. Funding came from the 2004 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

Construction of the building is being funded by a General Obligation Bond being repaid by revenue from the 2021 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

Tour Of Building

Daniell said guides would provides tours of the building after the ribbon cutting.

Kirouac agreed to be my tour leader. He invited Athens Banner-Herald reporter Wayne Ford to join us.

During the tour, which I video recorded, Kirouac said that the new Commission Chamber can seat more than 100, compared with 45 in the old Commission Chamber in the Courthouse.

Plaque At Front Door

The Commission meeting can be projected into the atrium outside the Chamber itself, allowing for more 100 additional people to attend, he said.

The table at the front of the room can accommodate the larger Planning Commission, which also will use the room, Kirouac said.

“Part of the issue we were really having just from a cultural perspective,” Kirouac said, “is you have four different buildings, people interacting all differently. We had cases where employees didn’t know each other.”

The new building is designed bring people together, he said.

The building has 11 meeting rooms, with most of those named after existing cities and historic communities of the county.

“The whole building is designed as sort of a celebration of Oconee County,” Kirouac said.


The video below begins with the ribbon cutting.

The tour begins at 6:55 in the video.

I shot a few additional video clips, including from the outside, beginning at 19:19 in the video.

The first commission meeting in the new building took place at 6 p.m., following the 4:30 p.m. ribbon cutting and tours.

The video of that meeting starts at 19:47 in the video.

The meeting was very short, with the Board approving continuation of a contract for background screening of volunteers at the Parks and Recreation Department and tentatively approving an alcohol license for Jim N Nick’s Bar-B-Q on the Oconee Connector.

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