The Liberty County Development Authority should settle the question of where the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce will move in a few days.
The development authority has plans to share more than 800 square feet of its new complex. LCDA Executive Director Ron Tolley said he expects the lease to be executed very soon.
While the development authority moved into its new complex last month, it has been in talks with the chamber about its destination. The organizations had been housed in the Mills House, at the corner of Washington Avenue and Highway 84 for several years.
Despite some controversy about the cost and ability of the chamber to pay, the pending lease agreement will bring closure for the ongoing issue.
Though they are separate entities and have separate boards, both organizations have the same goal, Tolley said.
“It makes it easier for us to be in the same building. Both organizations should have as their ultimate objective the economic growth and development of Liberty County,” he said. “It takes a lot of agencies to accomplish that. A lot of people are involved in making this community one that is desirable for people to relocate to. It’s not just residential, but the schools, jobs and a place where an industry can come and grow. It’s not just the development authority, the board of commissioners, the school board, the chamber, but everyone has a role to play in furthering the advancement of the community.”
Both organizations have publicly agreed on being under the same roof, but discussions hit a few snags when disagreement arose about how much the chamber should be charged for space.
The chamber initially presented development authority members with a proposed lease agreement about a year ago when construction began on the 9,397 square feet development authority building. The chamber initially expected to get 1,330 square feet of space and came up with a fair market value of $12.50 per square foot. In an earlier proposal, the development authority asked the chamber to pay $5,523.28 a month, based on the cost of the building. The chamber board rejected the proposal and offered to pay rent at what it thought was fair market value, on an escalating scale.
The final lease agreement gives the chamber about 849 square feet of dedicated office space. The chamber would pay $1,132.00 a month for three offices, a conference room, a unisex bathroom, and supply room. The development authority said the 60-month fixed rate lease covers free electricity, water, wastewater, solid waste management, insurance, maintenance and scheduled janitorial services worth an estimated $3,680.00, deemed an in-kind contribution to the chamber.
Chamber Executive Director Kenny Smiley said he hoped to move his operation into the development authority’s building by next week.
Tolley said the new building represents the county well and will enhance both operations. He said both organizations are needed and have important roles to play.
“The authority board is very much looking forward to everyone being able to operate out of a new facility. There will be a much higher level of productivity I hope. Those facilities (Mills House) did not project the right welcome for anyone visiting the chamber or the authority,” he said. “W wanted a place to send the right message to anyone who visits the county and we certainly have accomplished that. I believe everyone is entering the new structure with the goal of helping achieve the goals for the county.”
The operations space lease seems to be settled but development authority board members agreed that a policy for public use of the boardroom, kitchen and patio spaces is needed
Coming next week, an interview with the Chamber’s new president.
Chamber Mission Statement
— To support new and existing business, trade, and industry within Liberty County while increasing the cultural, civic, educational, and overall quality of life of its citizens.
LCDA Mission Statement
— Created in 1958, to develop and promote industry for the public good and welfare of the county. LCDA has developed industrial parks, constructed shell buildings, supported local technical college and workforce development programs, created award-winning local tourism projects, and organized and led partnerships with other public and private entities.