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Justice center's costs devouring taxpayers' dollars

POSTED: July 20, 2007 5:08 a.m.
By John DeikeCoastal Courier (Hinesville, GA) Staff Writerjdeike@coastalcourier.comSubstantial cost overruns for the new Liberty County justice center are devouring taxpayer money, and the new facility is still months away from construction.The problem lies in the purchasing of land between Bagley and MLK  abutting Main Street in Hinesville that was originally valued at $675,000 by the county tax assessors office in 2005, Citizens Advisory Council Chairman John Henderson said.But some of the landowners at that location were unwilling to sell, and county officials had to collectively increase their offers by 250 percent to acquire all the necessary land, he said.To date, it has cost the county $2.4 million in land acquisitions, appraisals and surveys to attain the desired property, Chief Financial Officer Kim McGlothlin said.The $2.4 million will come out of the Special Local Options Sales Tax fund that will also cover the $19 million construction of the justice center, she said.County Commissioner Connie Thrift said she believes the current location is a good one, and she is confident the justice center will bring more business to Hinesville’s downtown area.“The new justice center will bring many county employees to Hinesville who can spend money downtown, and the new facility will act as a major downtown hub, which may bring in more development and business to the district,” she said.Commissioner Marion Stevens shared a differing point of view.“I think we could have used that money for a better purpose,” he said. “We had to force some people from their businesses and some were happy to sell, and some were reluctant to sell, which drove the overall price upwards.”The new center will be three stories, include 19,000 sq. ft. and is expected to take about 18 months to build when construction gets under way, presumably in the fall, James Buckley and Associates architect David Holton said.
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