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Heritage bank branch bids opened

ALBANY -- While higher-than-expected bid numbers on a planned library/conference center left Lee County government officials facing a quandary, that was apparently not the case with the HeritageBank of the South branch whose bid opening came two days after the Lee County/state of Georgia-funded library project.

Heritage Lee County Market President Jimmy Wilson said Monday afternoon the 10,000-square-foot branch at 104 Heritage Lane off U.S. Highway 19 came in "about where we hoped it would."

Wilson said last-minute negotiations are ongoing, but he expects groundbreaking on the facility to be held the week of Aug. 23.

"We're not ready to announce the low bidder at this time, but we should have everything worked out by next week," Wilson said. "One of (Heritage's) goals is to increase our presence in Lee County, and this facility should help us do that."

Local firms LRA Constructors, Pellicano Construction and Bobby Harris Construction were the only contractors invited to bid on the project, which is expected to be completed by April 2011.

"One of the stipulations in our bid package was that local subcontractors and HeritageBank customers be given an opportunity to bid on the project," Mary Beth Hobby, HeritageBank of the South's vice president/marketing, said. "That was important to us.

"There was a lot of traffic when we had a branch at Robert B. Lee (Drive in Leesburg), and when we looked at the way Lee County is growing, we saw the need for a branch in a high-traffic area. And, of course, it's nice to piggyback on the Publix complex across the highway."

Architect David Maschke of Albany-based Maschke Associates said the new HeritageBank location offers maximum customer convenience.

"The branch is highly visible -- located as it is on the top of a rise -- from the north and the south, so we incorporated a combination of rock masonry, brick and architecturally-cast stone on the exterior of the facility," Maschke said. "This branch is larger than most typical bank branches, with 8,000 square feet of heated space and 2,000 additional square feet of covered ATM and drive-up lanes.

"The focus in the design was to maximize customer convenience, from dual entrances to ample oversize parking spaces to multiple drive-through lanes to an expanded coffee bar and sitting area. What we wanted to do was design a facility that projects the quality and professionalism of HeritageBank."