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City, county still negotiating building swap

Move would let Gainesville join departments and Hall to expand health services

POSTED: February 16, 2013 1:30 a.m.

After more than 30 years, The Joint Administration Building in downtown Gainesville is close to having "joint" taken out of its name.

Hall County and the city of Gainesville are close to an intergovernmental agreement where the county will trade its portion of the administration building for the city’s portion of the Community Services Center facility on the corner of Prior Street and Jesse Jewel Parkway.

The swap would allow the city to consolidate the departments housed nearby in one building and give the county the space to expand its health department.

"We strongly believe this potential new agreement is in the best interest of taxpayers and the future of Hall County," said Marty Nix, Hall County assistant administrator.

The county health department wants to expand in three phases, with the last phase an option if the trade happens. Gainesville City Council reviewed the agreement and a resolution at its Thursday work session. City Manager Kip Padgett said the city attorney is reviewing the paperwork.

The Hall County Health Department’s main campus is on Athens Street, with the main building and a prefabricated module building behind it. David N. Westfall, health department director, said he wants to move the dental clinic in the modular building to a building on Prior Street. Hall County’s Environmental Health Department occupied the building until it was consolidated into the county’s government center located in the old Liberty Mutual building at the corner of Browns Bridge and McEver roads.

The Ryan White Clinic would move into the modular building. Phase II would move the Women’s and Children’s program, known as WIC, to the Prior Street building.

Phase III, which requires the swap to happen, would allow Westfall to consolidate the children’s special needs programs in what would be the city’s former property on Prior Street, moving them to facilities on Thompson Bridge Road. The expansion also depends the county allocating special purpose local option sales tax revenue to the plan for renovations.

"The commissioners have to consider all the needs of the county, but we’re hopeful," Westfall said.

Hall County would save about $96,000 a year in maintenance for the Joint Administration Building by giving up ownership, Nix said. Consolidating the children programs at Prior Street would also save the county $121,000 to $197,000 annually in lease payments.

The county would not build a new facility for the health department, which is listed as a SPLOST VI project with an estimated cost of $5 million.

"We’re ready to move forward," Nix said.

Gainesville would move its community development, human resources and payroll departments from the Green Street Station building across the street to the three-story administration building. City Council would decide what to do with that facility, Padgett said.

Hall County and the city signed an agreement in 1972 to build a neighborhood service center at the Prior Street location that’s set to expire in 2022. They entered into an agreement sharing the Joint Administration Building 1977, which will expire in 2017. If the two governments sign a new agreements, the older agreements become void.


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