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Money for new DFCS building, officials think
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Good news, Liberty Countians, funding toward a new Department of Family and Children Services building is on the way.
Though the specifics of the building, apparently, are not yet.
The General Assembly recently re-allotted $721,000 in the state's fiscal year 2008 amended budget for the Georgia Department of Human Resources to assist with paying "increased rents associated with the relocation of (DFCS) offices" in Liberty, Oconee, Walton, Carroll and Banks counties.
If this sounds familiar, it's because the funds are the exact same funds appropriated for the five counties in the original 2008 budget approved by lawmakers last year. They were cut when Gov. Sonny Perdue redirected the funds to what he called higher-priority DFCS office projects.
In restructuring the '08 budget during this year's assembly session, however, legislators voted to restore the money for its original purpose as a "special project" in the amended budget, which Senate Budget Office DHR Budget Analyst Heather Borst said protected the funds from another redirection.
The amended budget was signed by Perdue in mid-March, but with FY '08 ending on June 30, it is unlikely any of the counties will have completed work on new offices. To keep the money available to the counties, the funds were moved into the state's fiscal year 2009 budget, DHR Press Secretary Dena Smith said.
This was a welcomed news for Liberty County's representatives and sentors who lobbied fellow lawmakers to get the funding necessary to move the current DFCS office from the insufficient, cramped building it has been housed in for at least 20 years.
"We have waited long for this money," Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway) said. "We've been in desperate need of a new building because DFCS long ago outgrew their current facility."
Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) and Majority Leader Tommie Williams (R-Lyons), who both serve as budget conferees, released a joint statement calling their efforts to get the budget passed in the Senate a victory for the children of Liberty County.
"Local DFCS offices provide invaluable services to the citizens of the state. With this knowledge, we wanted to be absolutely sure that counties needing new offices or improved offices received the funding they need," Sen. Williams said. "I am pleased with the outcome because ultimately, children living in Liberty County are the ones who benefit."
Smith said the exact amount of funding coming to Liberty County has yet to be determined. If DHR officials uphold last year's earmark in its entirety, the county could receive $257,000.
Rep. Williams said the money will be given to the county to use in a "build-to-occupy deal" in which the monthly rental fees will match the cost of the new building and at a set time the county will take ownership of the facility.
With funds now in place, the next issue is where to locate the building.
"There's been some debate, but I think it will probably be on the site of the old hospital," Rep. Williams said. "I think that's the logical place."
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