Bryan County Commissioners said Tuesday they want to take a longer look at plans to turn the old Fisherman’s Cooperative on Killkenny Creek into a public recreation area. Commissioners voted unanimously to extend by 120 days the window within which to make a decision on purchasing the 22-acre property in South Bryan where shrimpers once unloaded their catches.
The county voted in March to buy the Cooperative, which saw its commercial heyday in the 1980s and early 1990s, for $3.5 million with hopes of turning the Cooperative into a recreational area with boat ramps, a community dock and more. County officials then asked Savannah-based engineering firm Thomas & Hutton to provide an estimated price tag to build everything that could possibly go on the site, from docks to boat ramps to a pavilion and restrooms, over a 20-30 year period, according to County Administrator Ben Taylor. That “Cadillac version,” as District 5 commissioner Dr. Gene Wallace put it, is projected to cost more than $12 million, when the land price is factored in.
That led to some discussion over how fast to proceed and how much to spend. Officials are applying for some $3 million in grant funding through the state Department of Natural Resources to help pay for the project, which could include a DNR station.
“We’ve got great opportunity to make something nice there, but we have a lot of needs in this county,” said District 4 Commissioner Brad Brookshire, who cited the need to pay for additional fire protection, emergency medical services and road infrastructure improvements.
“I know those things aren’t sexy to anyone but (Bryan EMS Director Freddy Howell), but they’re all things we have to look at,” Brookshire said, later adding that continued spending could leave future commissioners having to raise taxes.
Wallace, who was out of town but attended Tuesday’s meeting at the Richmond Hill Recreation Center gym remotely, said the county needs to do the work in phases, and noted the time it’s taken to build a gym at Henderson Park.
The land for that park was purchased 2006 and the county has added to it over time, with construction of a new approximately $8 million gymnasium set to begin later in 2020 or early in 2021.
“If it takes 10 or 15 years to get our plans in shape, that’s OK, we aren’t in any rush,” Wallace said. Commissioners Noah Covington, D-1, Wade Price, D-2 and Steve Myers, D-3, also spoke in favor of the project — and taking time to get it right.
“Citizens gave us responsibility to protect their interests in anything we do,” said Myers, who is not seeking another term.
“That’s all we’re attempting to do here. Anybody who wants to load up on us and suggest otherwise, they don’t know this commission.”
The county is buying the property from Atlanta- based Keller LLC out of general fund money, County Commission Chairman Carter Infinger said in March, but could ask voters to approve funding of the project as Special Local Option Sales Tax project when the next SPLOST is up for a vote in 2023.
The cooperative was at one point in the 2000s destined to become a marina and condos after it was sold in 2004, but that never happened. The site, which had fallen into disrepair, was purchased in 1975 for $30,000 and sold in 2004 for $3 million, according to Bryan County tax records.
Commissioners voted to rezone a 515.6 acre parcel in North Bryan near Interstate Centre I from agricultural to I-1, or general industrial, to allow the construction of warehouses. The developer, VTRE Development Inc., wants to build more than 4 million square foot of warehouse space worth approximately $282 million when complete.
As a condition of the approval, the developer will have to work with the county on sewer extensions and transportation improvements, officials said.