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Lee capital projects move forward

LEESBURG -- While lamenting the continued economic downturn that has affected the county's bottom line, Lee County Commission Chairman Ed Duffy was able to offer citizens of the county some good news in his monthly update.

In addition to releasing audited figures that show the county actually had a surplus in excess of $600,000 for the year without using reserves from its undesignated fund balance, Duffy noted various degrees of progress on three significant capital projects.

"Although 2010 will be a challenging year financially, it will also be an exciting time in Lee County's history as we continue to build upon the quality of life that is found in the county," Duffy said.

Duffy noted that construction had begun on the fire/EMS station being built near Smithville, that a contract had been awarded for work on the Robert B. Lee truck route and that design work had been completed on the county's new library branch/conference center on U.S. Highway 82.

Barring significant weather delays, the north Lee County fire/EMS station should be online by summer. Oxford Construction Co., whose $1,776,674 bid earned the truck route contract, has been charged with completing that project -- which is expected to cut morning and afternoon school traffic congestion significantly -- by the time the 2010-2011 school year starts in the fall.

SRJ Architects Inc. of Albany has completed design work on the library/conference center and is developing bid documents that will be sent out soon. Construction is expected to start on the project in mid-summer.

The Geer and Associates CPA firm's audit shows expenditures of $19,229,442 with $19,849,434 in revenue collections. The $619,992 surplus was added to the undesignated fund balance, giving the county reserves in the amount of $6,310,136.

"A strong fund balance is important to local governments as it provides positive cash flow throughout the year," Duffy said.

Even in the face of the recession that has gripped the country for most of the past three years, the Lee Commission has managed to double the reserve fund in that time.

"During the current economic times, it will continue to be a challenge to balance the annual budget with available revenues," Duffy said. "Revenue sources that are tied to sales and property taxes continue to decrease, which places a strain on the county budget.

"The Board of Commissioners is committed to keeping the current millage rate stable. We continue to challenge the county administrator and department heads to seek ways to be more efficient and provide the same services for less money."

A copy of the county's audit for fiscal year 2009 is available on the county's Web site: www.lee.ga.us.