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County complex breaks ground
The South Bryan County Administrative Complex broke ground Wednesday. Among those in attendance were (from left) Kirk Gilbert with Choate Construction, Commissioner Rick Gardner, Commissioner Joe Kendrick, County Administrator Phil Jones, Commissioner Toby Roberts, Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed, Robert Armstrong with Hussey, Gay, Bell and DeYoung, Terry Lee with Choate and David Newland with Choate.

The 29,000 square feet, $3.6 million Bryan County Administrative Complex broke ground Wednesday. County officials said the center, located on Hwy. 144 at the front of the new recreation park, should be ready for business by January of 2010.

The complex will house county services such as the tax office, the tag office, health department, engineering, planning and zoning, and DFACS. Officials say the county is currently paying $100,000 annually to lease space for many of the services that will soon be on their own land.

County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed said the project’s general contractor, Choate Construction, has pledged to use as many Bryan County-based subcontractors as possible.

"You could say this is the Bryan County stimulus program," Burnsed said. "With Choate’s help, we’ll put many Bryan County residents to work with this project."

Burnsed said the location is perfect for several reasons. For starters, the location will also become a hot spot because it will eventually be where Belfast Keller Road and Hwy. 144 meet - once Belfast is straightened out. It will also mark the proposed ending point of the planned four-laning of 144.

"If you see what is proposed for the rest of the south end of the county, this will be the center of the population of the county ten years from now," Burnsed said. "That’s why we’re here – plus the fact that the land here costs $6,000 an acre and if go into town, it’ll cost $200,000 an acre."

Burnsed said a new fire station will eventually be built next to the complex. He also mentioned the numerous stages of growth that are coming soon for the recreation park. There will most likely be office space in the new complex for the recreation department.

The new complex will be 280 feet long and have two floors. Construction superintendent Terry Lee, who also happens to a resident of south Bryan, said the building will include "beautiful colonial columns in the Ford style that is typical with Richmond Hill and a parking system that goes all the way around the building. We’re taking great pains to leave trees out in the middle so when we get the construction done, we’ll still have some greenery."

Not everyone is sold on the location, however.

At least one critic said it is too far from the current population. South Bryan resident Shelia Galbreath said it is unfair to force those who currently live in the Richmond Hill city limits, and are accustomed to being close to county services, drive several miles down the road.

"Especially the health department," Galbreath said. "When that service is moved, our older citizens will have to venture as far as Fort MacAllister. It looks like the only county service remaining in the city will be library. This is a waste of SPLOST money."

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