The bottom might have fallen out of the real estate market, but that hasn't halted construction in Columbia County.
Numerous public building projects likely will get under way this year. Those include a new school, a health department building, park upgrade, water lines and much more.
Site work is likely to start this month or next for the county's latest elementary school.
"We should be ready to start construction by the end of May," said Superintendent Charles Nagle. "That'll give us a good 15 months to get it ready for an August 2011 opening."
Though bids have not yet been submitted, Nagle expects the school, which will be located behind the new Grovetown High School on Baker Place Road, will cost about $9 million, with $4 million coming from the state and remainder from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
If voters choose to continue the Education-SPLOST, as many as five new schools might be built in the county during the next few years.
School officials hope to put forward a referendum for a new E-SPLOST on the July 20 ballot of the primary election. With it, officials hope to raise $120 million to $160 million in sales taxes for capital improvements.
"The reason we want to go so early (on a new E-SPLOST) is if it passes we can go ahead and sell bonds on the potential earnings of that SPLOST," Nagle said. "That way, we can address the immediate needs we have."
Nagle said those include the purchase of school buses, building improvements and technology upgrades.
On county projects, work will start this month on a $2 million dorm at the Columbia County Detention Center and on more than $2 million in upgrades of fire stations in Leah, Harlem and near Grovetown, according to county documents.
A Georgia State Patrol Post and county recycling center, constructed last year on Chamblin Road, will get some new neighbors this year. Health department and county Animal Care and Control offices will be built on the Grovetown road starting in the spring.
Once the $4 million health department is complete, it will act as a centralized location and current offices in Evans, Appling and Grovetown will be closed.
The new animal control building, budgeted at $2.8 million, will replace the aging facility currently located off Columbia Road.
Work also should start in spring on the first construction phase of Evans Town Center Park. Nearly $1.7 million has been earmarked for the construction of walking trails and bathrooms, grading and utility upgrades.
Other projects possibly starting this spring include an expansion of Building C of the Evans Government Center, budgeted at $2.5 million, and a $2.2 million plan to expand the Fleet Services buildings.
All of the county projects will be funded with a $38 million bond to be repaid with revenues from the 2011-16 SPLOST.
Grovetown's primary building project for this year will be the construction of a water line and a larger water tank.
A new water main will be installed along East Robinson Avenue and connect to a new 750,000-gallon tank to replace a 250,000-gallon tank behind the post office. City officials hope to complete the work by summer to prevent any water shortages.
The $3.6 million project also will include the installation of new booster pumps.
Harlem officials started this month a sewer expansion project in the Planner Mill Road area, which likely will be paid for with a Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority Capital Improvement Fund grant.
Like Grovetown, the city also will replace a water line, this one on South Louisville Street. The installation of another water line toward the McDuffie County border might also start this year, City Manager Jean Dove said.
The water projects will be paid for using the city's Capital Improvement Fund.
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