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Gainesville to buy jail from Hall County: Lease could generate $18 million for Hall
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Sara Totonchi, a spokesperson for the Southern Center for Human Rights, talks about why her organization disagrees with an official interpretation of a recent ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court. The state attorney general's office believes the ruling means all sex offenders are still restricted from living within 1,000 feet of places where children gather unless they own their own homes.

Gainesville officials passed a resolution Tuesday night that may have secured the city's purchase of the former Hall County Detention Center. 

The city and county had been at loggerheads over the future of the facility and an agreement seemed hard to come by when it was clear both governments had very different intentions for it.

Earlier in the year, Hall County officials announced their intentions of leasing the property to a private jail management firm once they moved to their new jail on Calvary Church Road.

City officials initially balked at the notion, because it conflicted with their efforts to revitalize the Midtown area of Gainesville.

After months of negotiations, it seems the two have come to an agreement that serves both governments' interests. The city resolved Monday to buy the property for $4 million, and lease it back to the county for a period of seven years.

The lease will give the county the opportunity to sublease the property to a jail management firm, a move that county officials say will help offset the costs of building the new jail.

"To the city, the value in the jail is the property," City Manager Bryan Shuler said. "To the county, the value in the jail is the income potential from the jail being operated by a private entity."

The agreement allows the county to receive income from the property for a period of time, and gives the city the assurance of the long-term control of the Midtown property, Shuler said.

The county has previously said it received a lucrative offer from a private correctional management firm for use of the facility.

Shuler said the agreement could bring the county some $18 million in revenue from the sale and lease of the property.

Shuler said the city did not yet have any specific plans for the property's use. However, Shuler said the city did not envision using the property for any kind of government-run facility.

"We've set all our goals to get control of the property and not operate a jail," Shuler said. "But the agreement provides for either scenario to work out."
Councilman Danny Dunagan said the negotiations between city and county officials were positive discussions. The Hall County Commission is expected to vote to approve the agreement in the next week, Shuler said.

The City Council also gave the Redevelopment Authority control of the sale of the current police station and fire station in a resolution that was on the council's consent agenda at Tuesday's meeting.

The resolution moves along the sale of the two properties, but the Gainesville Police and Fire Department will likely stay put for a little while.

"We're not about to move out of it," Shuler said.

If and when the Redevelopment Authority sells the property, the city can still lease it until June 1, 2010, according to the agreement.

"We obviously need to stay in our police and fire stations until we have a new one," Shuler said. "We feel like June of 2010 gives us ample time to do that, because we're in that process now."

Shuler said the city is in the process of designing a new police station in the Midtown redevelopment.

"We just feel like now's the best time to begin the process of disposing of that property with the proper safeguards," Shuler said.

He did not specify whether or not the Redevelopment Authority had a buyer in mind.

"They very well may sell it (today). I don't know," Shuler said.
The Gainesville Redevelopment Authority is meeting today at 8:30 a.m. to consider "the approval of the execution of a real estate sale agreement providing for the sale by the Authority."