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Consultant details SPLOST plans to city council

Jud Bryant is out selling an idea these days - not just any idea, but one that he believes will benefit the residents of Thomson, Dearing and McDuffie County for many, many years to come.

The idea was born nearly five years ago when city and county officials determined that the existing county courthouse had become too small to meet the needs of a growing population.

Officials decided to form a steering committee to look into the possibility of building a joint city/county government center that would not only accommodate such problems as space shortage, but address security concerns, as well as handicapped accessibility issues.

Another reason for the idea of building a joint city/county government center was to establish possible renewal of economic growth downtown - where the government center is to be located.

Funding for such a venture would come from a continuation of a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax V package, which would include other projects aside from just the joint city/county government center. Funds to construct the government center also would have to come from voters approving a bond referendum, too.

Voters will ultimately decide the fate of both issues on Tuesday, Sept. 16, when the special referendum is held in McDuffie County.

Mr. Bryant, meanwhile, who serves as project manager of the proposed city/county government center, discussed the need for the building and the importance of voters approving the idea during last Thursday night's meeting of Thomson City Council. Several other people also attended, including McDuffie County Commissioner-elect Paul McCorkle.

During his nearly hour-long discussion of the proposed idea, Mr. Bryant pointed out that the steering committee, which has met numerous times, has studied the pros and cons of the project.

Mr. Bryant noted that the current courthouse has served the needs of the residents of McDuffie County "well" over the years, but that it has become too small to meet current or future needs of residents. He also pointed out that the current courthouse does not meet handicapped accessible federal guidelines and isn't up to par when it comes to security measures.

"We're in violation of federal law in this building (current courthouse)," Mr. Bryant said.

He also predicted that within the next 20 years that the population of McDuffie County is expected to come close to doubling what it is today.

The steering committee looked at options of renovating the existing building, but determined that those costs would almost match what it would to construct a new facility, Mr. Bryant said.

"Many of them felt we should build onto the existing courthouse," he said. But from a square-foot standpoint, he explained, it was determined that building a new facility was the best option.

"Governments do nothing but grow," he said, adding that the proposed city/county government center will take the county into the future. Mr. Bryant said the steering committee is trying to set a standard in Thomson and McDuffie County and to tell residents: "We're in this thing with you."

A city/county government center would include as many branches of city and county government and judicial offices as possible, Mr. Bryant said.

If voters approve the SPLOST V question on the ballot, as well as the question regarding a bond issuance for the proposed government center, "we will develop a building with the concept of one-stop shopping when it comes to government services," Mr. Bryant said in an earlier interview.

"We have to set the tone for everybody who is to come behind us," Mr. Bryant said, explaining that the government center would be a three-story building and may also include space for several local state offices, too.

Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry told those present at the council meeting last week that this was not a project merely dreamed up, overnight.

"This thing started five years ago," Mayor Usry said.

If the special referendum is approved by voters on Sept. 16, then construction could possibly get underway next spring, Mr. Bryant said. He predicted the first phase of construction to be completed within 18 to 24 months.

TALK SPLOST

WHAT: McDuffie County Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax Town Hall Meeting

WHEN: Wednesday, Aug. 27, starting at 7 p.m.

WHERE: Thomson Depot

MORE INFO: Sponsored by The McDuffie Mirror and WTHO-FM/WTWA-AM. Call 706-595-5122 for more information. Residents can submit questions for the SPLOST panel at www.mcduffiemirror.com.



Web posted on Thursday, August 21, 2008













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