After some budget finagling, Columbia County commissioners awarded a nearly $5 million bid for the construction of new Health Department and Animal Services buildings during a Tuesday meeting.
R.W. Allen and Associates won the project with a $4.9 million bid, which is less than the amount budgeted for the project by more than $1 million, said county Construction and Maintenance Services Director Matt Schlachter.
New facilities for the Health Department and Animal Services were included as part of a $38 million bond approved by voters last year. However, they were approved as separate items.
Because both will be constructed next to each other on Chamblin Road, county officials wanted to combine them into a single project, which meant seeking approval to unite the individual budgets, Schlachter said.
"We wanted to make sure on our end that we had the projects set up properly so when we bid this thing we were following proper procedures," Schlachter said.
The Health Department building will replace three facilities in Evans, Appling and Grovetown. The Animal Services facility will replace a smaller structure off Columbia Road.
In other construction news, commissioners granted a request by the state Department of Transportation to close down North Old Belair Road at Columbia Road to realign the intersection.
The current angle of the intersection "causes motorists to turn their heads in an uncomfortable position in order to see oncoming traffic," according to a letter sent to Schlachter by DOT.
The realigned road will create a 90-degree angle at the intersection, DOT stated.
DOT officials said they hope to buy rights of way for the project this year, but didn't immediately know when construction might start.
Also at the meeting, the commission adopted a revision to the county's sign ordinance granting businesses more leniency in using temporary banners and signs.
The revision allows new businesses to use larger signs announcing a grand opening for a week prior to the opening. It also permits larger temporary signs and banners more times during the year.
Signs and banners as large as 32 square feet, or 5 percent of a building's frontage, will be allowed four times each year for 15 days each time.
The updated ordinance also allows for off-premise signs advertising county events.
Revisions to the sign ordinance will remain in effect until Jan. 31, when county officials will revisit the revisions.
At Tuesday's meeting, commissioners approved a $3 increase in street light fees. Residents living in street light districts now will pay $57 per year.
The increase is part of an ongoing effort to transform street light fees into a true enterprise fund, where the cost is paid by the users, and not by all of the county's taxpayers.
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