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City development authority revived
Panel re-forms to work on college campus
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Forsyth County News

The Cumming Development Authority was re-established during a meeting Tuesday.

Mayor H. Ford Gravitt swore in the seven-member panel, which initially will work on bringing a four-year college campus to Cumming.

The members of the board, which had been inactive for more than 10 years prior to Tuesday, include: Jack Manton, Angie Mullinax, Randy Murphy, Brent Otwell, Richie Pirkle, Avery Stone and Ralph Webb.

After they were sworn in, members unanimously named Manton as chairman and Webb as vice chairman.

City Clerk Jeff Honea will serve as the authority’s clerk.

The group also approved establishing a bank account with BB&T, and City Attorney Dana Miles gave a brief overview of the authority’s first task.

Miles said they will work primarily with leaders of North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College, as well as the Georgia Board of Regents, to establish the campus.

Cumming’s mayor and city council approved the partnership with the entities earlier this year.

The campus is planned for the city’s 70-acre site on Pilgrim Mill Road, near Ga. 400 Exit 16, which also houses the Cumming Aquatic Center and a Department of Driver Services facility.

The site will eventually also include a National Guard Armory.

Plans call for a total of 25 acres to be deeded to the Georgia Board of Regents from the city for the college campus.

The first phase will involve 5 of those acres, Miles said.

"The total project can include up to four or five buildings," he said. "The first phase will be one building on 5 acres."

Miles said North Georgia and Gainesville State will together create a division called Pilgrim Mill Center LLC for development of the site.

The city, he said, will loan $4.05 million to the development authority, which will then use the money to provide the company a line of credit to assist with funding construction of the initial college facility.

"With the $3 million they’ll receive from the state, that will give them a total of just over $7 million to build the 38,000-square-foot building," Miles said.

He said the development authority would pay the $4.05 million to the company as a line of credit, rather than one lump sum.

"That way, it can be drawn down as needed throughout the construction," Miles said.

The company would in turn return the $4.05 million to the authority over a 10-year period.

"And the development authority would pay back the city through that line," he said.

Miles said the city has taken two steps to insure repayment of the funds in case the board of regents decides not to keep the site as a college campus for some reason over the 10 years.

He said those include a bank letter of credit for the entire amount of the debt from BB&T, and an unconditional guarantee from the North Georgia College Foundation to repay the debt.

"Our first call would be to BB&T, and then to the foundation, which has $25 million in assets," he said.

The city, Miles said, will also have a "buy back option" if the facility ceases to be used as a college facility.

"If the board of regents or the colleges change their minds in that 10-year period, the city has the option to buy back the facility for the equity or the appraised value of it, whichever is higher," he said.

Miles said college leaders have estimated opening the facility as early as August, noting that Winter Construction has begun pre-construction work at the site.

"We should be able to finalize all the documentation [with the city] within the next few weeks," he said, noting that the authority’s next meeting should probably be held soon afterward.

Manton said he and other authority members are pleased to be working on the project.

"I can’t think of anything more important to Forsyth County than bringing a first-class university here," he said. "That’s the last linchpin our community really needs."