Hall County is considering moving its government offices out of downtown Gainesville.
Administrator Charley Nix confirmed that the county is looking at a building that could accommodate all of the county’s departments.
"The county is looking at the Liberty Mutual building that has been up for sale for some time," Nix said. "We have been in discussions with them."
The property includes about 123,000 square feet on 38 acres.
"At this stage we’re only talking," Nix said. "We’re looking at this deal that’s been presented to us. We’re considering all our options."
Hall County has a few different office locations. The courthouse annex houses administration, finance and human relations; public works and the tax commissioner’s office are in the joint administration building.
"Whatever we do in terms of moving, what we’re trying to do is consolidate all of our county organizations, or as many as we can ... under one roof so we can make it more efficient for the taxpayers." Nix said.
Nix said the county is not unhappy in its current locations, but does need to consider other options soon.
"Part of (the special purpose local option sales tax) was for us to move into another structure," Nix said. "Of course the courts would need to expand into the building we’re in. In order for all that to happen we obviously have to move first."
In SPLOST VI, which was approved in March 2009, $17 million was planned for courthouse and administration building projects. Along with a rehabilitation of the 1936 courthouse, the official project list calls for the money to be used to convert courthouse annex space into court room space and relocate the county’s administrative functions to a new site.
Gainesville officials are concerned about the impact the exodus of so many county departments would have on the city.
City Manager Kip Padgett said the city council has directed him to write a letter to the commissioners, urging them to remain in the downtown area.
"They provide an economic benefit for downtown for our business owners during lunchtime and other shopping activities because the county has such a presence downtown," Padgett said. "The council is concerned because it’s good to have your county government offices down in your county seat and your downtown area."
Nix said there is still much to be discussed before a decision is made.
"I think we certainly have to take that into account," Nix said "We would be sensitive to considering all those issues as well."
As for the city’s 2 cents’ worth, Nix said it’s a bit premature. He said all discussions on the purchase have been held in executive session and were supposed to be confidential.
"We’re at the very front end of this," Nix said. "I’m surprised it got out."