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Board nixes driver services center
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Forsyth County News

Other business

Also at Tuesday's called meeting and work session, the Forsyth County commission voted to:
• Fill vacant positions at the E-911 center and magistrate court judge.
• Apply for the $20,000 Georgia Urban Forest Council Grant to allow for the planting of trees at Central Park.
• Accept $2,506 Community Grant Award from United Way for the Forsyth County Juvenile Court Program.

Approve the following:
• Software license and professional services contract with Tyler Software for the county judicial system, $2.78 million
• Digital orthophotography contract with the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Center and Forsyth County, contingent on 2009 budget approval, $115,454

Renew following contracts:
•  More Business Solutions for county copier and mailroom services for calendar year 2009, $441,000
• Advanced Ambulance for ambulance services to the county for calendar year 2009, $875,000
• JJ&G Services for operations and maintenance of Manor Water Reclamation Facility, $373,080. Passed 4-1 with Commissioner Jim Harrell opposed.
• NALAA to run and operate the Forsyth County Animal Shelter, $400,000

Accept the following:
• Various service agreements for as-needed county services including geo-technical, portable toilets and coffee services.
• Various bids for the water and sewer and parks and recreation departments.

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

-- Frank Reddy

The outlook for a new Department of Driver Services facility has grown bleak after the Forsyth County commission rejected an agreement with the state.

The board's decision Tuesday did not please state Sen. Jack Murphy, who for four years has worked to make the proposed 8,000-square-foot building a reality.

"[I'm] tired of trying to deal with [commissioners] on what should be a no-brainer type of matter," Murphy said Wednesday morning.

Murphy helped steer legislation that created a Forsyth County Public Facilities Authority, which can provide revenue for projects like a new driver services building.

Essentially, the spurned agreement said the county would build a new structure for the Department of Driver Services across from where it presently shares space with Georgia State Patrol Post 37 on County Way in north Forsyth.

The lease, which would have been for 20 years at $12,500 per month, has gone back and forth several times between the state and county.

The most recent version stated that if the department lost its funding, the county could terminate the contract and the state would owe any remaining funds.

"One of the reasons we approved the building authority for the county was for these type projects," Murphy said.

A measure for the public facilities authority passed the General Assembly and the governor signed it in April.

Commissioner Jim Harrell, who voted against the agreement Tuesday, said money was a factor.

"I don't see spending money at this time until we get a peek at what the state budget looks like," Harrell said.

Commissioners David Richard and Charlie Laughinghouse also voted against the measure.

Last month, commissioners directed County Attorney Ken Jarrard to suggest certain changes to the agreement that would bind the state more strictly to the lease.

Jarrard said he discussed the matter with the state, which agreed to change language in the contract that, "If they cannot pay their full lease obligation, we have a right to allow them to remain, but the county can add up any arrearages as an ongoing obligation against the state."

It did not sit well with Richard, who was worried over the revenue stream needed for a public facilities authority-funded project. "You do this with a secure revenue stream," Richard said. "However, if that secure revenue source dries up, the county's on the hook."

Harrell voiced concern as well.

"This is not the time for the county to be on the hook for things that aren't absolutely necessary," he said.

Murphy said the Department of Driver Services breaking the agreement was unlikely.

"The state's not in the habit of breaking lease agreements," Murphy said. "After four years of back and forth with [commissioners] ... I'm gonna suggest to the DDS folks that if they want to move that building some place else, like Dawson or Fulton County, they should just go ahead and do it.

"Other counties haven't had a problem like this," he added. "They've all built [DDS] buildings and haven't had a problem doing it."

Laughinghouse said the county's position on the agreement is "either fish or cut bait.

"We're at the point on this thing where we either go ahead with it or we just throw it out and say, 'DDS, go build it in Dawson County or somewhere else,'" Laughinghouse said.