Speculation that Columbia County commissioners might build a new Georgia State Patrol facility turned into reality during Tuesday night's commission meeting. Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a resolution to construct a new $2 million facility for the state patrol, which would replace the decades-old GSP post on Washington Road near Thomson.
McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton said he learned that the proposal was in serious stages of discussion between Columbia County officials and officials with the state patrol last Friday when he received a telephone call from Sgt. First Class Jason Johnson to come to the patrol office and meet with him and Lt. Donnie Smith.
"I'm disappointed about (the move), because the state patrol has been good neighbors to McDuffie County for many, many years," Mr. Newton told The McDuffie Mirror. "This is just one of those unfortunate things."
Mr. Newton said a plan from McDuffie County fell flat about four years ago.
"We made a proposal about four years ago to build a facility at our airport that would accommodate the state patrol, the aviation services they provide and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation," Mr. Newton said. "But we ran into several different issues that prevented that from happening."
Mr. Newton and fellow commissioners are expected to receive a letter from Georgia State Patrol Commissioner Col. Bill Hitchens sometime in the next few days concerning the proposal by Columbia County commissioners, according to Lt. Mark McDonough, who serves as the colonel's executive assistant.
"We want to be very sensitive to a community that has supported us for many, many years," Lt. McDonough said in a telephone interview from his home in Atlanta. Col. Hitchens will explain that in his letter and about the proposal received from Columbia County, Lt. McDonough added.
He pointed out that the state patrol will continue to provide the same type services it has provided and continues to provide to the people of McDuffie County.
The present facility, which has needed major renovations for years, simply isn't adequate to meet the needs of the state patrol any longer, state patrol officials say. Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross echoed that sentiment during the meeting on Tuesday.
Several months ago, state patrol officials contacted Columbia County commissioners to see whether or not they might be interested in building a new GSP post, according to Mr. Cross. Columbia County plans to pour $2 million into a 10,500-square-foot post on four acres on Chamblin Road, near the Grovetown exit off Interstate 20.
Completion of a new GSP facility will take about two years, said Columbia County Administrator Steve Szablewski.