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New city/county government center talks begin; aimed at creating economic growth

In coming months, much of the talk between officials in Thomson and McDuffie County will focus on one particular subject - a joint city/county government center

The concept behind the idea is aimed at generating downtown economic development.

"The number one reason for wanting to build a city/county government complex is to provide a cost effective way for city/county employees to work better, in addition to generating economic development downtown," said City of Thomson Administrator Don Powers. "This will be talked about a lot over the next 12 months."

Officials aren't sure where the funding to build the joint government center will come from at this time.

"Anything mentioned about the funding, at this stage, would be pure speculation," said Mr. Powers. He noted that it could come from SPLOST, borrowing the money through a loan from a financial institution, through bonds or possibly a combination of some of those things.

"A city/county government complex would greatly enhance the growth and revitalization of downtown Thomson," said McDuffie County Manager Don Norton. "We could virtually have everything under one roof, as far as city/county government services go. I think that would greatly benefit the people who live here."

A six-member city/county government center committee met last Wednesday to discuss various issues confronting them at this time. The committee consists of: Thomson Mayor Robert E. Knox Jr., McDuffie County Commissioner Fred Favors, McDuffie County Manager Don Norton, Thomson City Administrator Don Powers, Thomson-McDuffie County Planning Board Director Fred Guerrant and Thomson-McDuffie County Economic Development Director Mike Carrington.

Mayor Knox suggested that an appraiser and an architect be hired to "tighten up the plan" for a joint government center.

"I think that is the most important thing facing us right now," Mayor Knox said. "We need to find some quality people to help us with this project."

He recommended that an outside appraiser be hired instead of a local appraiser, so as to prevent any problem with possible local interests.

There are a number of properties that would have to be purchased, including some existing businesses, three vacant buildings and 16 vacant lots. Those properties lie over a 20.6 acre area. Based on the current value of the property, committee members believe it would take more than $1.3 million to purchase those properties.

The city/county government center, which is planned to be built along Railroad Street, could be five years away from being built.

"We've got a lot of things to figure out before we can even start thinking about construction," Mr. Norton said.

The government center, projected to cost $17.7 million, is expected to be a two-story building that would include many of the city/county offices. The center also would become the new home of several state offices within the county, including the Georgia Department of Labor and the Georgia Cooperative Extension Service.

Asked if the Georgia State Patrol post, currently located on Washington Road, just beyond I-20 might be moved there, too, Mr. Powers said such had not been discussed.

"I would think that they would want to stay where they are, since they are so close to the interstate," Mr. Powers said.

He believes if such a government center is built that it might create additional economic growth in downtown Thomson.

"I think it would be great for our downtown and tie right in with what we're doing with our downtown revitalization project," Mr. Powers added.

The committee is expected to meet again in about two weeks.

Web posted on Thursday, September 06, 2007

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