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Done deal on driver center
City to build new facility at Exit 16
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Forsyth County News

Other business

Also Tuesday night, Cumming City Council approved the following:

* A nearly $21.3 million budget for 2009, down from about $24 million the year before.

* Rehiring all municipal employees and reappointing all members of the city's planning and zoning, recreation and health boards, as well as the housing authority.

* Reappointing Ralph Perry as mayor pro-tem.

* The widening of Pilgrim Mill Road/Atlanta Hwy. between School and Maple streets for an estimated $885,000.

Note: All votes were 6-0

-- Jennifer Sami

State Sen. Jack Murphy has found a place to park a new Department of Driver Services facility.

Cumming City Council on Tuesday night voted 6-0 to build a 8,500-square-foot structure on 5 acres off Pilgrim Mill Road at Exit 16 off Ga. 400. The site is just north of where the city's aquatic center is going up.

The new drivers center would replace the existing and overcrowded 1,500-square-foot facility, which shares space with Georgia State Patrol Post 37 on County Way in north Forsyth.

Mayor H. Ford Gravitt told council the project, which Murphy estimated would cost less than $1 million, could be funded through the city's financial reserves.

Once built, the city could see a return on its investment within seven years, as the annual lease on the building would be $150,000.

It took the city just four weeks to sign off on the deal, which Murphy had pursued for four years with Forsyth County, including pushing legislation to create a revenue-providing Public Facilities Authority.

But this fall the county backed down from its pledge, citing financial concerns over the state's ability to ensure a steady revenue stream beyond the first year.

In December, a frustrated Murphy turned to the city. He got the response he was looking for when Gravitt said he would look into brokering a deal.

"I really appreciate the mayor and the city council jumping on this project," Murphy said. "I knew that they would move very fast. That's what they had promised to do, and they're fulfilling what they said they would do, and I appreciate it very much."

Gravitt acknowledged the time frame.

"This is a project they worked with the county on for four years, according to Sen. Jack Murphy," the mayor said. "He requested the city try to resolve this issue and work it out.

"They're ready to start paying rent as quick as we can get it built for them."

Murphy said he still is disappointed in the county's decision, saying the structure could yield between $2.5 to $3 million in profit over the term of the lease.

"The main thing is that we're getting it done and it's going to be a good thing for this state and it'll be a good thing for the city as well," he said.

It would also be at the center of the city's developing northeastern edge, which will also include a Cumming campus of North Georgia College & State University and a National Guard armory, which moved a step closer to reality Tuesday.

Gravitt received approval from the council to sign necessary documents to move forward with the armory on a 10-acre tract along Pilgrim Mill.

[The Guard] is ready to go now with their plans," Gravitt told council. "They've got to get things moving or they'll be delayed another year."

The $26 million project is expected to begin within the next 18 months and be completed within three years.