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Community center may be delayed

Commissioners debate whether South Hall project is priority in poor economic times

POSTED: September 27, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners could delay the construction of the Mulberry Creek Community Center in South Hall following discussion among commissioners at Monday’s work session.

Commissioner Bobby Banks suggested waiting three to six months to start construction due to tough economic times, because about $450,000 from impact fees would be needed for construction costs.

The county charges impact fees to developers to help offset the costs of new infrastructure.

"The economic times are not right. People are losing their houses, they can’t buy food, they can’t buy gas. To me, it looks like it would be a slap in the face to the people that can’t afford to feed their families to go out and build a $4 million community center," Banks said.

Banks also cautioned building the J.M. Turk Road facility with impact fees, which could be used in other areas, because the future is uncertain.

"We don’t know what times the county’s going to fall upon. Just because we have the money don’t mean we need to spend it right now," Banks said.

Assistant County Administrator Phil Sutton said the Mulberry Creek Community Center originally was budgeted at $4.4 million, but actual cost will be $3.9 million.

Hall County Purchasing Manager Tim Sims presented bid details for the construction of the new community center, which originally was approved using SPLOST IV funds. SPLOST IV was a temporary sales tax approved in 1999 that lasted through 2004.

Sutton said construction for the new community center has been delayed a number of times because the right piece of land took time to locate and because it has not been a commission priority until recently.

The Mulberry Creek Community Center is intended to replace the South Hall Community Center, which was sold to Blackshear Place Baptist Church. The county is leasing the center from the church until the new facility is complete.

"We had to make revisions and decide what was the most important thing we needed to do, and honor our agreement with Blackshear Place Baptist Church where they could have the current facility within their time frame," Powell said.

The county will remain in the South Hall Community Center until October 2009 at this point.

Powell also said though the Mulberry Creek Community Center has been delayed before, he feels it is time for the project to get moving.

"I don’t want to delay, we have an obligation when a SPLOST is passed to build those facilities that were voted on," Powell said. "I think it’s our job to deliver on our promises."

The commission will vote on the construction of the Mulberry Creek Community Center at its board meeting Thursday.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners also moved toward a tax allocation district for Flowery Branch at Monday’s work session.

City Manager Bill Andrew presented a map of the city highlighting the selected land parcels to the board.

About 567 acres will be included in the tax district, much of it centering around the downtown area. Andrew said areas were chosen because they were underdeveloped or in need of a "jump start."

"For us it can mean the difference between staying as we have been or moving forward," Andrew said.

The commission plans to vote on the district Thursday.



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