Columbia County commissioners voted Tuesday to build an up to $2 million facility to house a new Georgia State Patrol post near Grovetown.
The resolution, approved unanimously at the commission meeting, would allow the county to enter an intergovernmental agreement with the state patrol in which the county would build the new 10,500-square-foot post on four acres on Chamblin Road, near the future Grovetown High School.
"Their present facility (in McDuffie County) is not adequate," said county commission Chairman Ron Cross. As a result, state patrol officials approached the county months ago about building a post, Cross said. County officials discussed the request at a planning retreat in November and put together the proposal for patrol review.
"The presence of a law enforcement facility adds to the safety, well-being and quality of life in Columbia County," Cross said.
McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton said he learned that the proposal was in serious stages of discussion between Columbia County officials and officials with the state patrol last week when he received a telephone call asking him to meet with patrol officials.
"I'm disappointed about (the move), because the state patrol has been good neighbors to McDuffie County for many, many years," Newton said. "This is just one of those unfortunate things."
Newton said a plan from McDuffie County fell flat about four years ago.
"We made a proposal about four years ago to build a facility at our airport that would accommodate the state patrol, the aviation services they provide and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation," he said. "But we ran into several different issues that prevented that from happening."
Funding for construction of the new post will come from Columbia County's general fund, and will later be reimbursed from the next round of sales tax proceeds or from bonds.
County Commissioner Ron Thigpen said the funding eventually will be recouped by fines from traffic citations issued to violators by the more than 20 state patrol officers headquartered at the post.
All state patrol citations issued in Columbia County go through the county's Probate Court, said County Administrator Steve Szablewski.
Once details of the agreement are reached, the facility is expected to be completed within about two years, Szablewski said. The building would be deeded to the state, which then would be responsible for providing interior furnishings, utilities and maintenance of the building.
Also at the meeting, commissioners passed a resolution to increase the water rate by 2.9 percent each year for the next three years.
The rising costs of fuel, manpower, electricity and chemicals necessitated the rate increase, said William Clayton, the county's director of water utility.
The rate increase will add about $1.2 million to the water utility department coffers during that three-year span, he said.
A $25 water bill would go up by about 75 cents with the rate increase, Clayton said.
Water customers will be notified in their next bills and start paying the rate increase on their April bills, he said.
The water department is required to maintain an income 10 percent above its operating expense. Those revenues are invested back into the department for capital improvement projects, Clayton said.
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