The McDuffie County Board of Commissioners is expected to decide next week whether it wants to hire Atlanta-based planning firm Bryant & Associates to conduct a comprehensive needs analysis as a first step towards the construction of a city/county government complex.
Jud Bryant of Bryant & Associates made a presentation to the board several weeks ago outlining what it would take to get the planning phase of the building underway.
"The best you can do is get your arms around the situation and make certain decisions relative to certain planning thresholds," he told commissioners. "I will go around to every department in the city and county and will interview the department heads on what their needs are. We can run computer simulations based upon population, workload and staff organization that gets us to the size of the bread box in a hurry."
In early June, County Manager Don Norton said he hoped the study would cost around $10,000. Mr. Bryant told commissioners that it would take roughly $15,000-$20,000 to retain his services.
Despite the difference in price, Mr. Norton said it still sounded like a good deal.
"I was pleased, and I think the group was pleased to hear what he is proposing: basically to get us a starting point on this new joint city/county administrative building...The scope of the project has changed a little bit...in all honesty, I think it's increased some. When he submits a proposal, we'll see what he comes up with."
If commissioners do decide to hire Mr. Bryant, his study would run concurrently with a similar study that's in the process of being conducted by Athens-based engineering firm Chasman & Associates. The difference between the two is that Chasman & Associates would be looking at the entire county's capital needs up to 20 years down the road, while Bryant & Associates would be analyzing some of those same capital needs in a similar timeframe but in the context of a city/county government building.
Mr. Bryant said he expects the initial phase of the planning process to take somewhere between 30 and 45 days. The complex itself is thought to be at least five years away, as the county will likely need to pass another sales tax bump to fund the project.
Like Mr. Norton, several other local officials said they were satisfied with Mr. Bryant's proposal.
Thomson Mayor Bob Knox said, "I was impressed. I think we should wait for a formal proposal, but I think we should sign him up."
McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton added, "I'm impressed with what I heard...It sounds like the same type of process we're undergoing with our other portion of the plan, and I don't think those fees are out of line."
Mr. Bryant said that finding a site for a city/county building would not be entirely up to him; it would require legwork by local elected officials as well.
"Where a building like this is located isn't an economic decision; it's a political decision," he said.
McDuffie County voters passed a $1.6 million allocation to go towards the planning and land acquisition required to begin development of a city/county government complex last year.