The Winder Downtown Development Authority board, during its Thursday, Dec. 19 meeting, approved the sale of $7.3 million in bonds to facilitate the construction of a new Division of Family and Children Services building, which the authority will own after 15 years.
The building, projected to be around 24,000 square feet, will be constructed on 3 acres of land on Lays Drive off East Broad Street in Winder, near the Social Security Administration building. It will roughly triple the amount of space occupied by DFCS around Winder — buildings which local officials have said is far inferior to the planned facility. Construction on the facility is expected to begin in the summer.
Buford-based Forum Development Services, which was awarded the project by the State Properties Commission, will oversee construction of and manage the facility, which will be leased to the state for a 15-year term. Those lease payments will pay for the $7.3 million debt at a 3.18-percent interest rate, according to the bond resolution approved by the DDA. Forum has constructed two dozen DFCS buildings and several other similar facilities across the state over the last 20 years, Margaret Bowen, the company’s president, told the DDA in a meeting earlier this year.
The DDA will act as a financing “conduit” for the project and will have ownership of the building after the 15 years. At that point, the state would either continue leasing the building and making payments to the DDA, or the DDA could find another use for the building.
The DDA has discussed the project for the past several months and, in September, created the Winder Lays Drive Project Corporation to hold title to the building. Authority leaders have said the project is a “safe” way to eventually have its own money coming in.
Forum representatives told the board that even if the state exercised an option to terminate the lease ahead of time, which has never happened, or if the company were to go under, the DDA would not have any financial liability.
“It’s almost a no-brainer for us,” then-DDA chairman Chris Maddox said at a meeting in May. “We’re going to be a pass-through for some financing. Someone else’s money is going to fund it. Someone else’s money is going to do the development. If the worst-case scenario happens, we might have a little egg on our face but we’ve got no financial responsibility.”
In other business at the Dec. 19 board meeting, Maddox tendered his resignation as chairman and the board appointed Jason McDaniel as the new chair.