Hall County is ready to move ahead with construction of the North Hall park and library.
The county will be opening bids at 3 p.m. today for the grading of the Nopone Road site regardless of a lawsuit from the town of Clermont.
“This is the first real construction piece,” Assistant Hall County Administrator Phil Sutton said of the controversial project. “Everything else has been architectural work and land planning.”
Clermont is suing Hall County in hopes of halting progress on the North Hall library following an extended battle to have it built in Clermont.
Sutton said the county is moving ahead with construction of the facility unless officials are told otherwise by a judge.
“They’ve talked about applying a stop work order or a restraining order, but the court hasn’t ruled on that,” Sutton said. “We can’t just stop a project based on something the court may or may not decide. We have to go on.”
County Purchasing Manager Tim Sims said the bids will be analyzed this week and then staff will recommend a company.
Sims said he hopes to have the board of commissioners approve the bid award at its next meeting July 22.
Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin Aug. 1.
“It just depends on how long it takes them to analyze,” Sims said.
Sims said the lawsuit shouldn’t have any impact on the grading phase of the project.
“It wouldn’t be affected if something were to come up,” Sims said. “Because we’re still building the park here. There’s only a small area that the library is going to take up.”
Clermont Mayor James Nix said the city is not surprised the county will soon begin construction.
“They’ve been trying to move forward all along,” Nix said.
Clermont attorney David Syfan could not be reached for comment as of Monday evening.
The entire facility, including outdoor areas, will be about 55,800 square feet, with the library making up 12,373 square feet.
The park and community center is budgeted for $12 million, while $3 million was set aside for the library. Both projects are funded by the special purpose local option sales tax.
The library and the community center will share two multipurpose rooms.
Sutton said the community center is the first priority and is tentatively scheduled to open November 2011.
“I think the community center will be operational first. Then the grass has to grow in on the ballparks and multipurpose fields, so that schedule will be dictated a lot by the season it’s constructed,” Sutton said. “The library may take a little longer to outfit after the building is completed. There’s so much more in the way of materials.”
On Feb. 25, the board of commissioners voted 4-1 to approve building the library in the same Nopone Road facility as the North Hall park and community center, following a suggestion from Chairman Tom Oliver.
Clermont officials and residents fought the proposal tooth and nail, saying they were promised the North Hall library would be built on the land purchased in the city if SPLOST VI was approved.
The suit, filed in April, claims the board of commissioners “indicated in a multitude of public statements, that the future Clermont library branch for the North Hall area was going to be constructed on a part of the 41.43-acre tract purchased ... in the town of Clermont.”
Hall County said no such promise was ever made and no vote was taken on the location of the North Hall library until the commission voted in late February to place it at Nopone Road.