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Scant details offered on new Sheriffs Office HQ alternatives
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Before the Hall County Board of Commissioners approved a $257,000 contract Thursday for the architectural design of a new Sheriff’s Office headquarters, questions emerged about whether due diligence had been given to looking at the possibility of renovating existing buildings instead, perhaps at a lower cost.

The existing Sheriff’s Office headquarters at 610 Main St. in downtown Gainesville is the site of the old county jail. That facility was sold to the city of Gainesville in 2012; the Sheriff’s Office leases it from the city, with that lease set to expire in 2017.

Another portion of that same building once housed an immigration detention facility run by the Corrections Corp. of America, which vacated the building at the end of 2013.

County officials reportedly explored several options to house a new Sheriff’s Office, including remodeling the old Regions Bank in downtown Gainesville and the CCA detention facility.

Design and construction of a new building at the 33-acre county government center campus on Browns Bridge Road is expected to cost $5 million. Sheriff Gerald Couch told commissioners Monday that, when coupled with the purchase price, renovations of the bank would exceed the total budget allotted for the new headquarters.

What the renovations would have cost have not been made public. According to county officials, a nondisclosure agreement was made with owners of the Regions Bank building, prohibiting the county from releasing financial details of estimated renovation costs.

Meanwhile, officials said it was quickly apparent that remodeling the CCA facility was unfeasible.

Couch told The Times he toured the facility, which was built in three phases, but determined that architectural limitations, such as the difficulty in removing load-bearing walls, made it an unlikely site to build new offices and meeting space.

“The county did not continue to explore a remodeling budget for the facility,” county spokeswoman Katie Crumley said.

In the end, Couch said constructing a new building was the most cost-effective option, and that doing so would likely take 18 to 20 months.

The new 50,000-square-foot, three-story administrative headquarters at the government campus will be built using SPLOST VI money.

“All the necessary infrastructure, including power, water, fiber optics and parking, is readily available at that site, which will save taxpayers money and reduce the time required for construction,” Couch said in a news release Monday.

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