Lee delays library project

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Those who came to the Lee County Commission meeting Tuesday night expecting more fireworks surrounding a planned library/conference center project left disappointed.

Except for Commissioner Dennis Roland's legal question about the use of special-purpose local-option sales tax funds and post-meeting comments from Libertarians Tim Nelson and Jeff Sexton, the matter was handled with a minimum of fanfare.

Interim County Administrator Al Crace recommended, and got, a rejection of all construction bids on the project, including apparent low bidder Hensler and Beavers' $4,803,578 figure.

Then a motion was made to move forward with a redesign and rebid of the project. Roland headed off a vote on that motion temporarily with a question for County Attorney Jimmy Skipper.

"If the state of Georgia gives $2 million for the construction of the library, and voters approve a referendum that calls for $2 million in SPLOST funds to be used on the project, and the project costs only $3.3 million, can the additional $700,000 be used to build a conference center?" Roland asked. "Would we be breaking state law if we used that money to build a conference center rather than using it on another SPLOST project?"

Skipper said he would have to look into the language of the referendum before making a recommendation.

"It all depends on the wording of the referendum, which I don't recall off the top of my head," Skipper said. "I suspect what we'll find is that the referendum says the county may use 'up to so many dollars' on the project. The law is very strict about what you can use SPLOST money for.

"I would think if the $4 million (allocated for the project) is not used, what's left over would have to be put into the next SPLOST project on the list."

County Commission Chair Ed Duffy said after the meeting that Sonya Spalinger and Bruce Richards with SRJ Architects had worked with County Planning and Engineering Director Bob Alexander to reduce costs for the project to "around $5,230,000," slightly more than the $5.2 million previously approved by the commission.

The additional funding needed to complete the project would come from loans.

"I expect we would use all of the ($4 million in state and SPLOST funds) on the library," Duffy said after the meeting. "I don't know if Mr. Roland's question would impact the project."

In other action, commissioners approved EMC Engineering Services' bid of $31,280 for design of the Westover Road Extension transportation project, approved Alexander's recommendation to extend an existing sign moratorium for another 30 days, OK'd Albany Tractor Co.'s bids on Public Works equipment and selected South Georgia Heating and Cooling, which had the low bid of $18,725, to make air condition modifications on the county courthouse.