By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Hall commissioner: Clermont will get library
County chairman says Nopone Road project too far along to move library
Placeholder Image

Commissioner Ashley Bell and Commissioners-elect Scott Gibbs and Craig Lutz announced late Thursday they will vote in January to give the North Hall library back to the town of Clermont.

Following the Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting, Bell said the three have notified staff they will hold an emergency meeting Jan. 6 to reverse the vote taken by the commission Thursday to approve a $9.73 million contract for the construction of the combination park, community center and library on Nopone Road.

But Hall County Chairman Tom Oliver said he thinks the county is too far along with the Nopone Road project to change it now. The contract for the project has already been awarded and design work has been completed.

“If their goal is to do that regardless of what the contracts are, that’s something new to me,” Oliver said. “I would question how that works, but I guess we’ll find out.”

The announcement of support for a library in Clermont came just one day after Hall County Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller ruled that Hall County violated no laws when commissioners voted in February to move the proposed North Hall library from Clermont to the same Nopone Road property as the planned North Hall park.

Bell said he voted against the construction contract Thursday because he does not intend to move forward with that project once the new commission is seated in January.

“I felt as though this commission has officially hit lame duck status. Anything they do from this point forward that they know is contrary to what the new commissioners want is a waste of taxpayer resources,” Bell said. “We intend on giving Clermont back the library come first of the year ... Knowing this going forward, any design costs, any change order expenses, we’re putting the county on notice that this is going to be on them.”

Plans for the North Hall park and community center at Nopone Road would not change.

Gibbs and Lutz take office in January, replacing commissioners Bobby Banks and Steve Gailey.

Bell, Gibbs and Lutz will have a majority of the votes on the five-member board to reverse the vote to move forward with the Nopone Road facility in favor of a library in Clermont.

Following the commission’s vote in February to put the North Hall library on Nopone Road, Clermont residents were outraged, claiming the county had promised it would be in their town. Clermont filed suit against the county in April. The county said no promise was ever made and their only decision was the February vote.

Bell, Gibbs and Lutz emphasized the move is in an effort to salvage public support for future Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendums, which are put before the voters for approval every six years.

“If we don’t have our SPLOST funds, we have no projects. There is no money in the budget for projects. We have to have SPLOST so we have to honor our commitments,” Gibbs said.

But Bell said he agreed with Fuller’s ruling that Hall County broke no laws.

In his ruling, Fuller said the county “performed their official duties in accordance with the terms of the SPLOST V and SPLOST VI documents.”

The law grants governments flexibility to alter sales-tax funded projects as long as they do not contradict what was presented to voters on the ballot.

The ballot did not list Clermont as the location of the library.

The commissioners acknowledged that the switch means taxpayer money spent on the Nopone Road facility will be wasted.

But Gibbs said, “I’m not looking at it as a waste. I’m looking at it as a mandate from my voters.”