Plans for the news gym at Roper Park as presented by Commissioner Jones.
At a called meeting last Thursday, Commissioner Robert Jones signed a resolution entering Pickens County into a $3 million loan for the Pickens County Community Center now under construction at Roper Park.
When completed, the community center will be 30,650 sq. ft. and will house two high school regulation sized gyms with basketball courts capable of seating up to 200, an indoor walking track, a large meeting room that can seat 150 when eating or 250 when not, two classrooms and a covered outdoor area.
The facility will also be used as a shelter in the event of an emergency.
The county secured a building loan with the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) for an eight-year term at 3.25 percent interest, according to Pickens County Finance Director Mechelle Champion. Payments on the $3 million loan will be $35,645 per month.
The county plans to use money collected from the one-cent SPLOST approved by voters in 2008 to ultimately cover the entire cost of the community center.
But the county cannot use SPLOST money to pay for the gymnasium project until renovations are completed on the SPLOST-approved courthouse project, which the commissioner initially estimated at $17 million and later said may cost less.
Since SPLOST collections began in 2008, the county has collected $8.5 million. Collections on the six-year SPLOST will end in 2014.
While the $3 million borrowed from ACCG is now available for county use on the new gym at Roper Park, Jones says having those funds accessible does not necessarily mean the county will use the entire amount.
“We are borrowing the $3 million, but nowhere does it say that we have to spend that entire $3 million,” Jones said. “We are not looking to spend the $3 million. We are doing as much of the work in-house as we can,” he added, referring to grading and land erosion control being performed with county equipment.
“We are looking at doing a lot of cost savings, and we’re doing things that are more cost efficient so we can save the taxpayers money, but we want the public to know what could possibly be spent. We want to do all of this above board and let the public know what is going on.
“We don’t want this to be like the State Patrol office where no one even knew that building was being built. We are showing this in black and white up front.”
Jones also noted that because the loan with ACCG is a building loan, the county will not be charged interest on money they don’t use. “But we’ve got it set up at the bank that we have it there if we need it,” he said.
Included in the $3 million budget breakdown provided by the county, $1.85 million is earmarked for the general contractor J.K. Lockwood, but Jones said following a cost analysis meeting with the architect, electrician, heating and air, and plumbing contractors, the county was able to knock approximately $200,000 off of J.K. Lockwood’s winning bid.
Jones said by getting more creative with the various contractors involved, the county found they could cut the number of transformers needed, shorten the length of main electrical cables, and run conduit under the building’s concrete slab rather than above it, all of which whittled the general contractor’s price down.
Jones said the county is purchasing equipment such as basketball goals and gym pads directly from a supplier rather than getting those items through the contractor, who would tack on 10 percent to the final cost.
“The taxpayers are getting the same building,” Jones said. “We just figured out some ways to save money.”
Also included in the $3 million project budget is $152,000 in contingency money, $197,000 for pipe, supplies, and the septic tank, and $142,000 for curb, guttering and gravel.
Cost of the land the new gymnasium will sit on, which ran the county just over $311,000 in the middle of 2010, is not, however, included in the $3 million budget breakdown.
The county has also deeded a tract of land adjacent to the future site of the gymnasium to the Boys & Girls Club of North Georgia, which has plans of constructing a $2.5 million facility on the property.
“We don’t want any surprises down the road with this thing,” Jones said. “I’m not going back down the road and telling taxpayers we need another $1.5 million. That’s not going to happen.”