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Firm picked to raze downtown structures
Work will make way for new courthouse
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Forsyth County News

Behind the scenes at the Cumming Country Fair & Festival

Autumn Vetter
By: Jim Dean

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Also during a work session Tuesday, the Forsyth County commission:

• Postponed, in order to revisit the terms, a budget amendment related to a 10 percent increase in the Advanced Ambulance services for 2013.

Commissioners previously directed staff to grant the increase sought by the company to cover fuel costs and bills that couldn’t be collected for county service.

Later discussions with the company, however, have led officials to take up the matter Jan. 22, prior to approving the final contract.

• Nullified the Dec. 20 conditional denial of an appeal by Carol Albert of a Zoning Board of Appeals decision allowing developer Rocklyn Homes to follow the site plan approved in 2004 for Champions Run.

Albert, a resident of the subdivision, and Rocklyn could not formalize the agreement reached in principle.

The commission then voted 4-0, with Cindy Mills abstained, to deny the appeal without requiring the agreement.

• Agreed to a consent order to condemn 2.3 acres owned by the William C. Rawson Family Trust for $1.01 million.

The payment includes valuation of mitigation of the wetlands for the site along the Big Creek Greenway.

Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the agreement, with Todd Levent opposed.

• Ratified a 2012 amendment to the contract between the county and Taubman Centers, which plans to build a regional mall, office space, hotel and residential units between Union Hill and McFarland roads.

The amendment allows the county to remit just half of the nearly $2.8 million payment to Taubman for right of way by Feb. 15 and the remainder in 2015.

• Removed six commissioner committees that have been relatively inactive, while making appointments to the remaining four.

The commission opted to keep the finance, transportation, water and sewer, and parks and recreation committees.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard explained that with the changes to the state Open Meetings Act, discussions between two commissioners who serve on the same committee about a related subject matter could require public notice. Jarrard advised removing unused or unneeded committees during the annual appointment process.

• Approved the requested names for three north Forsyth parks as recommended by the parks and recreation board.

The site at Wallace Tatum and Matt Highway will be named Matt Community Park at Settingdown Creek, while the site on Old Federal Road will be Eagle’s Beak Park.

The former Lanierland property on Jot Em Down Road will be called Lanierland Park.

• Authorized about $57,000 for an emergency repair of a 1999 asphalt paver for the roads and bridges department.

The repair is expected to extend the life expectancy of the equipment by 10 years. Buying a new paver was estimated to cost about $400,000.

• Reappointed Dana Miles as hearing officer and general counsel for the county’s civil service board.
The vote was 3-2, with Commissioners Jim Boff and Levent opposed.

Note: All votes were 5-0, unless otherwise noted.

— Alyssa LaRenzie

The Forsyth County courthouse and jail project is proceeding on schedule as commissioners on Tuesday chose a company to demolish some existing downtown structures to clear the way.

Gainesville-based Industrial Facilities Solutions will handle the demolition of the former county parking deck and building across the street from the current courthouse.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to award the $385,000 bid, which is about $100,000 under budget, said project manager Joe Lee.

According to procurement director Donna Kukarola, work will start this month, beginning with the required removal of asbestos and abatement in some of the buildings facing Veterans Memorial Boulevard.

She said the small area of the downtown Cumming site will require tall fencing, which should go up shortly, to secure it. The company is expected to complete the work within 45 days of receiving the go-ahead.

The existing 246-space deck closed Dec. 28 to prepare for the demolition.

The commission also received an update on the project, which voters approved in November 2011 as part of the next round of the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST VII.

The projects are estimated to cost about $100 million, or nearly half of the anticipated revenue from the six-year tax collection that begins in July.

Commissioners ratified the final contract in the project Tuesday for construction manager at risk.

Turner Construction and Winter Construction have joined together for the project, with a bid of about $1.85 million in fees.

The guaranteed maximum project price is expected at about $76 million, though that amount is not exact or finalized, said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

Construction is scheduled to begin in July and last about 18 months, with completion set for the end of 2014, Lee said.

The renovation of the existing courthouse will follow, and that building is expected to house Magistrate and Probate courts, as well as court administration, he said.

“We believe it’s going to be a premiere project,” Lee said, adding that the team will not exceed its $100 million budget.

Commissioners also agreed with the recommendations of the project team to demolish the existing jail and build two new parking decks.

A study of the existing jail showed repair costs totaling about $3.5 million, compared to a replacement of about $4.8 million, which led Lee to recommend demolishing the current jail as the most cost-effective, long-term option.

The commission also agreed with the recommendation to split parking between the two proposed sites: behind the county administration building and at a lot on the corner of Castleberry and Maple streets.

Dividing the parking into 450 spaces at the administration building and 250 by the Tyson’s plant is intended to disperse traffic and provide a better transition during construction, said Doug Shaw of architect firm Wakefield & Beasley.

Lee added that both decks will have the ability to be expanded by one or two levels.

County Manager Doug Derrer said discussions with the city of Cumming are under way to allow use of its parking lot for the deck and to abandon Mason Street, which runs behind the county building.

Both of those agreements are needed to allow for construction of the current design, Derrer said.

“Even though you haven’t seen any dirt move yet,” he said, “there’s a lot of work that’s gone into this to this date.”