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Columbia County exhibition center construction to start in June

Posted: May 20, 2012 - 12:09am
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Don Blackstock (right), the president of the Augusta Mustang Club, presented a check for $5,000 to Columbia County Animal Services during the county commission meeting Tuesday. Receiving the ceremonial check are the county's Community and Leisure Services Division Director Barry Smith, Community Events Specialist Virginia Atkins and Animal Services Manager Linda Glasscock. The Mustang Club raised the funds from events, including the May 12 Ponies in the Park car show at Evans Towne Center Park.    Photos by Barry Paschal
Photos by Barry Paschal
Don Blackstock (right), the president of the Augusta Mustang Club, presented a check for $5,000 to Columbia County Animal Services during the county commission meeting Tuesday. Receiving the ceremonial check are the county's Community and Leisure Services Division Director Barry Smith, Community Events Specialist Virginia Atkins and Animal Services Manager Linda Glasscock. The Mustang Club raised the funds from events, including the May 12 Ponies in the Park car show at Evans Towne Center Park.

Work is expected to start in early June on a new Columbia County exhibition hall near Grovetown.

Columbia County commissioners on Tuesday awarded the $7.3 million project to Augusta-based McKnight Construction Co. The more than 47,000-square-foot facility will be built behind Walmart in the Gateway Shopping Center on Horizon South Parkway near Interstate 20

Construction should start during the first week of June and is scheduled to conclude by early 2013, said county Construction and Maintenance Services Director Matt Schlachter.

Because the Family Y signed a multi-million dollar deal with the county last year to rent about half of the facility, the county will prioritize finishing that part of the building in time for New Year’s signups for fitness facilities, Schlachter said.

“I want them to push as hard as they can on the Y side of the building,” he said.

Family Y executives have said that the 10-year lease allows them time to establish a presence in the area while planning the construction of their own facility on an adjacent piece of land the organization already owns.

County officials initially planned to open the exhibition hall last December, but construction bids all came in over budget, and the scope of the project since has been scaled back to lower costs.

The county’s side of the facility will be used for large meetings and conventions, officials have said, and those uses will occupy the entire building after the Family Y moves to its own facility.

Commissioners also agreed to spend $60,000 for gates and $150,000 for video screens for the Evans Towne Center Park. The money will come from a 1-percent sales tax discretionary fund. Officials recently said the gates are needed to better secure the park, and that the screens will publicize sponsors of park events.

“I feel like this is necessary to make it a first-class entertainment venue,” commission Chairman Ron Cross said during a May 8 committee meeting.

Commissioners also on Tuesday heard concerns expressed by Riverwood Plantation resident Chris Schiffbauer, who said many of his neighbors were alarmed to hear that the project’s developers plan to build apartments in the area.

Commissioners, however, said apartments aren’t a recent addition, but have been part of the overall plan for the development since it was approved in 2005.

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