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Hall County board votes for ballfields at Cool Springs Park
Commissioners agree to keep select offices in downtown Gainesville
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Children share opinions on Cool Springs Park plans

Other business

County commissioners also voted to allow former county attorney Bill Blalock to continue performing legal work for the Sheriff’s Office until a permanent county attorney is selected.
Following a request by Sheriff Steve Cronic, Chairman Tom Oliver brought the matter before the board.
The commissioners allowed Blalock to continue working for the Sheriff’s Office in the interim as long as his firm, Stewart, Melvin and Frost, could prepare an affadavit proving that no law partner was in business with any member of the commission.

Melissa Weinman

The Hall County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 at Thursday's board meeting to build competition baseball fields on the Cool Springs Park property and keep the tax assessor's and tax commissioner's offices in downtown Gainesville when the county relocates to the Liberty Mutual Building next year.

The commissioners quizzed staff about the funding sources and operational costs of the different options for building on the Cool Springs property: building low-end practice fields, mid-range or high-end competition fields, or nothing at all.

The discussion came at the request of Commissioner Billy Powell, who asked the commissioners to at least consider building the much-needed ballfields after they voted to halt work on the park, which was to include a playground, skate park and walking trails.

Purchasing Manager Tim Sims told the board that there is $1.8 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax V money reserved for the park.

Commissioner Ashley Bell expressed concerns to Parks and Leisure Director Greg Walker about Cool Springs Park not being included on the parks board's master plan.

"It has not been updated in six years," Walker said. "It's not in our master plan, but I think it would be an asset to Parks and Leisure."

Powell, whose district includes the Cool Springs property, made a motion to build mid-range ball fields, which would include everything for a competition grade field except for field lights and batting cages, at a cost of $1.57 million.

North Hall Commissioner Scott Gibbs worried the money would be in conflict with funding for the North Hall park under construction on Nopone Road.

"I still think this money is coming out of Nopone," Gibbs said. "It says North Hall (on the SPLOST V referendum) and this is West Hall."

The board voted 3-2 in favor of building the fields, with commissioners Gibbs and Craig Lutz in opposition.

"I'm very pleased that we were able to get competition fields for the kids," Powell said.

"Hopefully down the road we'll be able to revisit the rest of the amenities for the park as funds become available."

The commissioners also discussed the merits of leaving several departments in the Joint Administration Building - which the county co-owns with the city of Gainesville - when the county relocates to the Liberty Mutual Building.

Public Works Director Ken Rearden said the county pays $4,250 a month for utilities in the building, rounding out to $51,000 per year. The total yearly operational cost for the building is $97,800.

Commissioner Ashley Bell expressed interest in leaving the administration, tax assessor's and tax commissioner's offices in the Joint Administration Building downtown for the benefit of businesses in downtown Gainesville.

The tax commissioner's and tax assessor's offices are currently located in the Joint Administration Building. When the engineering department moves to the Liberty Mutual Building, that will leave 5,411 square feet of space in the Joint Administration Building, which is not enough to accommodate the administration offices that currently occupy 7,240 square feet.

"I don't think that's a possibility unless there's a negotiation with Gainesville," Rearden said.

Bell made a motion to move the administration offices to the Liberty Mutual Building and keep just the tax commissioner's and tax assessors offices in the Joint Administration Building.

"If we're going to have an empty building somewhere it shouldn't be in downtown Gainesville," Bell said.

Interim County Administrator Jock Connell told the commission that the county's agreement with Gainesville would require them to continue to pay a percentage of the operating costs for the Joint Administration Building.

"If we're going to heat it and cool it we might as well use it," said Gibbs said.

The commission voted 3-2 to keep the tax assessor's and tax commissioner's offices downtown.

Commissioners Tom Oliver and voted in opposition.