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Group discusses sales tax projects
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Forsyth County News

The search could soon begin for an architectural firm to handle the designs for a new county courthouse and expanded detention center.

During a meeting Wednesday, the nine-member committee charged with helping guide the projects along agreed to ask the Forsyth County commission to seek proposals from firms.

Donna Kukarola, director of the county’s procurement department, made the request to start the process, which could take up to six weeks.

“That way, the program manager hopefully would be on board,” she said. “We’d be looking at the architects and the selection and they can be involved, but we wouldn’t have to wait until we had the … program manager actually hired before we went out on the street. It would just speed things up.”

The committee is tasked with advising the commission on the capital projects voters approved last fall in a six-year extension of the 1-cent sales tax, also known as the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax or SPLOST VII.

The tax includes an estimated $100 million for the jail and courthouse facilities, to be built across from each other on East Maple Street in downtown Cumming.

Officials have said current estimates project the new round of sales tax will bring in about $203 million through between June 2013-19.

In addition, voters approved the bonding of up to about $89 million for the projects' initial start before sales tax revenues are collected.

Also Wednesday, the committee heard a detailed funding options report from member David Gruen, the county’s finance director.

Gruen talked about banks that have enough capital to make a loan large enough to cover the cost of the jail and courthouse.

The Bank of North Georgia, Community & Southern Bank, Hamilton State Bank and SunTrust Bank are interested, he said.

Gruen, who was encouraged to look locally as well, added that three banks — United Community Bank, Citizens Bank of Forsyth County and the Community Business Bank — have agreed to a banking syndicate, where they would work together to share the loan, if chosen.

Gruen talked about various interest rates and compared the benefit of borrowing from a bank or taking out a bond.

While there was some discussion, no action was taken on the project’s financing.