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Cornelia proceeds with purchase of former tractor dealership

By Rob Moore Reporter
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CORNELIA - The City of Cornelia is moving forward with its purchase of property adjacent to the Cornelia Community House.

The Cornelia City Commission voted Tuesday night to purchase the former Cornelia Tractor & Implement Co. building and land, located at 559 Wyly St., for $75,000.

The purchase has been contemplated by city officials for several years, but the city and property owner were unable to come to terms until now.

"We've been talking about it really almost since I came to work here seven years ago," said Cornelia City Manager Donald Anderson. "We've worked out a deal that both parties can live with."

Anderson said the additional property will allow the city to improve parking and aesthetics at the entrance to the community house, which was built in 1936 and is a favorite spot for weddings, receptions, conferences, meetings and other gatherings.

"We've been trying to clean up that area around the community house," Anderson said. "That was part of the dog park project - we bought that kind of run-down house and tore it down, and now the tractor place - I don't think it will ever be used for that again. It's in a residential district, not really a commercial district so we were probably the only logical purchaser for the property."

He said the community house accommodates 300 to 400 people, but only has about 50 parking spaces, so city officials are looking at this additional property to relieve some of that crowding.

"Anybody that goes to any function at the community house knows that we do not have adequate parking for that facility, so we feel like this is a good opportunity to enhance the parking arrangements there and the beauty around the community house," he said.

Anderson said the purchase itself will be made with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax proceeds.

Beyond that, next Tuesday's vote by Habersham County residents on the SPLOST extension could determine how quickly the city is able to proceed with demolition of the building and construction of a parking facility.

"A lot of it, as far as the project, is going to hinge on SPLOST 6," which contains money for the community house parking lot, Anderson said.

Timing of the purchase, however, coincides closely with work on the city's new reservoir.

"One thing about this that's kind of unique is we're going to save some money on our new reservoir project because our engineers have looked at it and calculated just a ballpark number of loads of dirt they're going to need to build this property up," Anderson said. "Based on their estimate, we're going to save in the neighborhood of $10,000 to $20,000 on the hauling cost for hauling the dirt off our reservoir site."

Anderson said the city had planned to stockpile the dirt at its wastewater treatment plant, but noted the former tractor company property is half the distance from the reservoir, which will result in the estimated savings.

Additionally, purchase of the building will help the city with another of its projects.

"Inside the building is actually a metal building, and all the steel beams are still in really good shape," Anderson said. "We plan on salvaging those and actually using them for the engine bays at the second fire station that we have, so that will save some money on that project when we're able to do it, as well."

There are some tax liens that are being satisfied by the Wyly Street property owner before the property purchase is completed on Feb. 1.

"Originally, they had a Dec. 15 close date and we scratched it out and put Feb. 1, because until we're able to get clear title we can't go through with the purchase," Anderson said. "We felt Dec. 15 was a little too optimistic to try and get the issues resolved."

The purchase will be a 2014 budget item.

"Once we know we're actually going to close on it, we'll go back and amend the budget," Anderson said.

Additionally, the city recently completed preliminary work on an auxiliary parking lot behind the community house, on the location of the former swimming pool. That lot will accommodate roughly 20 additional vehicles, and will be paved in the spring.
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