With Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller calling it the “second most important date” the city has had after becoming home base for the Atlanta Falcons, council members approved the very first steps of developing a new city hall location.
The vote at the council’s Tuesday meeting did not come without some discussion, however.
“This is a pretty good amount of money,” councilman Joe Anglin said. “When I first looked at it ... my eyes kind of bulged and I started stammering.”
The contract approved at Tuesday’s meeting gives a notice to proceed with the predesign portion of the work for $65,000.
The contract also notes there is a second notice to proceed on architecture and engineering services for $477,000. City Manager Bill Andrew confirmed after the meeting that there would be a second vote for that portion.
The $542,000 is part of a total budget of $4.9 million, with around 48 percent of that coming from a five-year special purpose local option sales tax, approved by voters countywide in March and set to go into effect July 1.
The local resource fund will pick up the remaining cost beginning in 2021 through 2029, according to Finance Director Jeremy Perry.
The total budget includes parking spaces, a public plaza, widening sidewalks and extending West Pine Street from Church Street to Railroad Avenue. The proposed new city hall location is alongside the road extension.
The current city hall is on Main Street, with government offices across the street.
Anglin suggested a public bid be done to get different price points, but City Attorney Ron Bennett advised a bid process is not required for professional services.
“Why this engineering firm?” Anglin asked about the selected choice of Southeastern Engineering.
Andrew explained that Brian Bolick, who has worked with the city previously through Pond & Company, is now with Southeastern Engineering.
“He had basically overseen the team that had done the (Flowery Branch)
redevelopment plan from which all of this has been drawn,” Andrew said.
“I guess the staff’s feeling is that Mr. Bolick is literally the last person that is in the area that still has an institutional memory of what we did with our redevelopment plan,” he continued. “The feeling was that Mr. Bolick would not have to be brought up to speed on what we have done … in getting to the point that we are today.”
Andrew said Bolick also advised the city select Wakefield Beasley & Associates for the architectural services, the $477,000 portion of this first phase.
Andrew said that firm has recently completed the new courthouse and jail in Cumming for Forsyth County.
Council members Fred Richards and Mary Jones voted to move forward with the notice to proceed. As Anglin voted against the measure, Miller provided the necessary third vote.
“We have merchants in town who have made investments within the city, that want to see this happen,” Richards said. “They have investments on Main Street. This is the quickest way, that I see, to get Old Town more revitalized.”
Jones also asked for a consensus prior to the vote.
“I just want to make sure it’s clear that I totally recognize the need for expanding,” Anglin said. “Especially this building (City Hall) and the police station. (Police Chief David Spillers) took me on a tour in there a little while back, and my jaw dropped when I saw what they’re having to deal with over there.
“My issue is the process with awarding the engineering contract without taking bids. That’s the only issue I have.”