Barrow County is planning to eventually expand the judicial courthouse and detention center off Barrow Park Drive in Winder in the coming years, and county officials are eyeing future special-purpose local-option sales tax monies as the funding source for the future multi-million-dollar project.

The county board of commissioners, during its Tuesday, Oct. 13 voting session, approved $45,000 to fund a space needs and expansion study for the 84,153-square-foot facility. Silling Architects will complete the work and eventually provide an assessment for projected needs, county manager Mike Renshaw said. He added that the study is needed with the county’s population expected to continue to grow over the next several years.

The current complex, constructed more than a decade ago through the use of voter-approved SPLOST funds, was built with a “minimal expansion area” at the courthouse to accommodate the inclusion of the Barrow County State Court, and the detention center footprint includes space for an additional 64-bed housing unit.

Renshaw said the study will explore options for developing new housing units beyond the footprint of the current building and will explore the addition of additional courtrooms, judicial offices and jury assembly space.

The study will also eventually give projected construction costs for the future expansion.

Renshaw said he did not currently have a projected cost, but he said old, possibly outdated estimates for the jail expansion were in the $2.5-3 million range.

If the county continues moving forward in the direction of an expansion and wants to use SPLOST funds, that would likely require that voters OK an extension of the current 1-cent SPLOST that expires June 30, 2023 — meaning another referendum would likely be put before voters sometime in 2022.

Renshaw said he is recommending the county pursue designating the project as “Level 1,” which would mean money would be taken right off the top of the SPLOST collections to fund the expansion. The building of the judicial courthouse and detention center was a Level 1 project in the SPLOST 2005 referendum that voters approved.

“This is going to be a major project,” BOC chairman Pat Graham said. “But it will also impact the amount of SPLOST proceeds the county and each city gets, so this will take a lot of communication with them in making sure they understand” the need for the expansion.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business Tuesday, commissioners:

•approved letters of roundabout support for both Phase III of the West Winder Bypass and for State Route 53 at Jackson Trail Road. The county would enter into agreements with the Georgia Department of Transportation for the county to pay the energy costs and be in charge of landscape maintenance for the roundabouts. The Bypass Phase III roundabouts are projected to have a construction contract let in January 2022, and the projected let for a construction contract for the SR 53/Jackson Trail Road roundabout is January 2024.

•approved a right-of-way maintenance agreement associated with a roundabout for State Route 211 at Old Hog Mountain Road, in which the county would provide the right-of-way maintenance and mowing once construction is completed. The construction let date is scheduled for next year.

•approved the county’s 2021 LMIG application packet for road projects. The county will receive $739,880 from the state and a minimum 30-percent county match is required. The recommended stretches of road selected for resurfacing include Manning Gin Road, 3.9 miles from the Bethlehem town limits to Marbury Creek; and County Line-Auburn Road, 1.42 miles from State Route 211 to Dee Kennedy Road. The county is contributing a 31.25-percent match for a total project cost of $961,844. All work is expected to be completed by next summer.

•approved a Center for Tech and Civic Life grant in the amount of $40,632 to pay for expenses on the county’s ballot drop box; personal protective equipment purchases for elections staff, poll workers and voters; polling location rental and cleaning expenses for early voting and election day facilities; temporary staff and election administration equipment.

•approved a county code amendment regarding “major” and “minor” subdivisions which stipulates that a property can be split into as many as five lots within any three-year period and remain classified as a minor subdivision.

•approved the revised Unified Development Code, with the requirement that the county’s future land-use map must be changed before any incompatible zoning district is allowed for a property. Applicants can submit requests to change the land-use map along with their rezoning applications.

•approved a request by Bruce Russell and the Alex B. Russell Estate to rezone 49.51 acres on Mulberry Road for a 42-lot residential subdivision. Among the conditions for approval are that the homes have a minimum of 2,000 heated square feet.

•denied a request to only have a 6-foot-tall privacy fence between a convenience store/truck stop being developed at 1158 Carl-Bethlehem Rd., Winder, and neighboring properties instead of a 12-foot-tall fence, which was a condition of an approved rezoning of the property last year because the applicants had a waiver of a required 100-foot buffer. The buffer was dropped to 50 feet.

•approved a special-use request by Elizabeth Milan to operate an art school at 2276 Hwy. 82, Statham, by utilizing the existing structures on the property, with the possibility of adding another building in the future for student lodging.

•approved the purchase of a truck for the roads and bridges department from Akins Ford in the amount of $54,129.

•accepted the Piedmont Area Traffic Enforcement Network Grant in the amount of $19,761.

•accepted a grant through the Office of Justice Programs Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program in the amount of $58,769, for coronavirus hazard pay for first responders.

•accepted CARES Act Relief Funds in the amount of $38,134.

•accepted the federal Farmers Market Grant for $65,250.

•approved the refunding of a portion of the Barrow County School System’s outstanding Series 2010 bonds, which total a principal amount of $22.92 million, in order to achieve a savings in the system’s debt-service requirements.

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