Construction on the new DeKalb County Administrative Office Complex, formerly known as the Town and Country Shopping Center, is progressing and work on the offices of the four county officials who plan to move out there may be completed within three weeks.
Moving day from the courthouse to the new building for Register of Deeds Jeff McMillen, Assessor of Property Timothy "Fud" Banks, Trustee Sean Driver, and County Clerk Mike Clayborn is now set for Thursday, August 18.
The portion of the building being leased by the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency has already been finished and officials of UCHRA have moved in there.
The remainder of the building, which is not expected to be completed by next month, will remain under construction.
County Mayor Mike Foster, in an interview with WJLE Thursday, said the county has spent to date $1-million 808-thousand 580 dollars on the renovation of the building and is still expected to spend up to another $700,000 before it is finished.
The total project is expected to cost the county around $3.2 million. The purchase price was $750,000 and the cost of construction to renovate the complex is $2-million 523-thousand 416.
When the county bought the building, Foster said a decision was made by the county commission to borrow up to $5-million dollars. By doing so, the county was able to pay off existing debt at that time of more than two million dollars and finance the cost of this building project. While the repayment schedule is now at fifteen years, rather than six years under the former debt repayment plan, Foster said the county's yearly payments are less with a better interest rate. Plus, he said the county is getting the added benefit of having tenants in the new building (UCHRA) which will be paying rent to the county for a number of years.
"The money we set aside when we borrowed the five million dollars was to pay off some debt that the county already had and that was paid off," said Foster. "We then set aside three million dollars for the building to do the upgrades and what not. We borrowed the money by bond issue at three percent for fifteen years locked in. So by borrowing the money at three percent versus 5.8% (under the former loan) that saved us some money. Of course, doing it under a fifteen year loan rather than a six year loan (under the former debt repayment schedule) really changed the amount we pay. We already owed over two million dollars, so that was paid off. The rest of the money was designated for upgrading that building and buying it. So we paid ourselves (county) back out of that five million dollars, the $750,000 that we gave for it (building). We are now in the process of doing the renovations and the bid to do that work (renovation) was $2,337,000. But we did some upgrades on insulation and energy saving devices throughout the building so we added a little bit to it ( change orders totaling $186,416) so it's (total renovation project) is $2,523,416," said Foster.
"One company (Cambridge Constructors, Inc. of McMinnville) is doing the work and they are subbing it out. In our specs we specified that 40% of the equipment had to come from DeKalb County and they have hired some local workers too as laborers because a percentage of them had to be local too," said Foster.
He continued "In the process, we have rented three or four spaces in there (building) that's going to bring in about $50,000 a year to help offset the costs. That $50,000 a year will be a continuous thing. Its not just a one time thing. Our payments (under former loan) on what we already owed was $469,000 a year but only for six years. The payment on the new building is $409,000 but for fifteen years. If we take the revenue we'll be receiving and use it for debt payment. If you did it (calculated it) that way, that would lower it (debt payment) to about $355,000. But you could also use it (rental payments from tenants) for utilities because there's going to be some utility costs out there. But either way, we're still about $55,000 better off than we were. We also cut the animal control officer position that was in the budget ($25,000) and moved it out there as somebody (director) to oversee the building along with a lot of volunteers. So it's a net gain actually of a little bit of money, rather than spending more money, except we'll be paying on it for fifteen years rather than six years the other way," said Foster.
Foster said he still believes this is a good investment for the county."We had to have more space for people in the courthouse. We had bought the lot here in town and had intended to use it for that purpose, but it was probably going to cost from $1.1 million to $1.5 million to build a new building over there. We later learned about this building (shopping center complex). So the county commission voted to buy it and do some renovation on it and move four of the county (courthouse) offices out there, Register of Deeds, Assessor of Property, Trustee, and County Clerk," said Foster.
In March, 2008 the county commission voted to purchase a small lot, about eight tenths of an acre, near the public square as a possible future location for a courthouse annex. The county paid $125,000 for the property on a three year note.
Foster insists that this new building project is not the reason the county is seeking a proposed increase in the tax rate.