Lee Commission approves fire/EMS station

LEESBURG -- As his four fellow commissioners raised their hands in unaninous approval of the motion to OK a bid calling for the construction of a fire/EMS station in the north Lee County Smithville community, Lee Commission Chair Ed Duffy couldn't contain himself.

"That's been a long time coming," Duffy said with a satisfied smile.

The commission approved the $744,580 bid of Peachtree City-based South-Tree Enterprises to build the station that had been approved by county voters in a referendum eight years ago.

That piece of business was one of several actions taken by the board during its lone November meeting Tuesday night. Also approved unanimously by the commission was a contract offered by the Georgia Department of Transportation for work on Robert B. Lee Drive, Lovers Lane Road, U.S. Highway 19 and State Route 32.

The $1.6 million project will help alleviate morning and afternoon school traffic gridlock in downtown Leesburg.

"I know three of you have full-time jobs, but this project shows that it matters that you take the time to make trips like the one to see (DOT Chairman Vance Smith) in Atlanta on behalf of the citizens of Lee County," County Administrator Alan Ours said. "I appreciate your commitment, and the people of the county should appreciate it as well."

Prior to the action taken by the Commission, architect Sonya Spalinger with SRJ Architects Inc. of Albany and her team discussed schematic drawings and costs of the county's proposed library branch/conference center that is to be built off U.S. Highway 82 at Oakland Drive.

Spalinger said the original plan for the facility called for a 26,677-square-foot structure built at a cost of $139 per square foot ($3.7 million), but changes in the design actually called for 27,399 square feet of space.

"The good news is that the costs for construction have gone down to around 2007 levels," she said. "Our current estimate (of $3.6 million) is at $135 a square foot, and I think the level will actually be lower than that.

"We could be looking at costs between $120 and $135 (per square foot) when we get our bids."

Ours told the board the state had sold bonds last week to finance its $2 million share of the project, and members voted 3-1 to approve the design presented by SRJ. Commissioner Dennis Roland voted against the project because, he said, it had surpassed his "$4 million threshold."

In other action taken, the board:

-- Tabled a request to rezone land on Armena Road zoned active agriculture for the purpose of building a single-family dwelling;

-- OK'd a $64,762.50 bid to pave the parking lot at the T. Page Tharp Government Center;

-- Approved the transfer of a shared fire/EMS assistant position to EMS;

-- Accepted a bid of $100,795 for a replacement ambulance in the Redbone District fire/EMS station;

-- Agreed to pay $20,820 from contingency funds to satisfy a tax bill sent by the state Department of Revenue as a penalty for the county tax digest being below 40 percent of fair market value;

-- Approved an $11,812 payment for emergency use of Oxford Construction Co. equipment during early summer flooding; and

-- OK'd $27,334.80 in SPLOST funds to pay for chairs in the Opal Cannon Auditorium.

Also during the extended meeting, Duffy read a proclamation honoring Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany on the celebration of the Marine Corps' 234th birthday today; and local elementary students Abby Hughes and Sarah Kate Kirkland presented a check for $101 to the commission to help with the construction of the county's animal shelter.

The youngsters and their friends raised the money at their neighborhood lemonade stand.