GAINESVILLE - The design contract for a new $4-million correctional institute was not approved as planned by Hall County Commissioners Thursday night. Commissioners want to look at an alternative; putting the C.I. in the old county jail downtown on Main Street.
With Correction Corporation of America's departure from the jail at year's end, Commissioner Jeff Stowe said Gainesville officials want the county to consider the jail for a new C.I. instead of building a new one.
"It's been brought to my attention that the city would like for us to look to see if it would make sense for it to go there and also if the Sheriff would entertain staying there for a longer period of time," Stowe said. "I'd like to give our staff time to look at those possibilities before we start design work on a new C.I."
Commissioners passed Stowe's motion to table the $248,000 C.I. design contract until the commission's first 2014 meeting January 9th. Commissioner Craig Lutz said he wanted staff to look at how much it would cost to operate the C.I. in the jail in addition to the 'retrofit' cost of converting it.
"That facility wasn't designed as a C.I. and my concern is trying to fit into that model," Lutz said.
Commission Chairman Dick Mecum also wanted the motion amended to check permits on housing state inmates in the jail.
"Look at the state permits and see where we're at with putting state inmates back in that facility," Mecum said.
(CCA) announced two weeks ago the company's plan to close its Gainesville illegal immigrant detention facility by the end of 2013. The company said the decision to leave came because of a continuous decline in the jail population.
Last year Hall County agreed to sell the property to the city of Gainesville
for $7.2 million and CCA leased the jail from the city.
CIVIL SERVICE BOARD REPLACED
Commissioners passed two resolutions doing away with the county's civil service board and calling for the appointment of the Chief Registrar by the Commission instead of the Senior Judge of the Hall Superior Court.
Chairman Mecum said due process on appeals would be delivered by an administrative law judge appointed by the commissioners instead of a three member Civil Service panel.
"They often times stray from the law and go more on feelings, friendships, or politics," Mecum said.
Mecum added a hearing officer who is an attorney would base decisions on the facts of the case.
Both resolutions require action by Hall County legislators during next year's General Assembly.
RIVERKEEPER DISAGREES WITH AGREEMENT
Commissioners drew opposition with their adoption of a joint agreement with the City of Gainesville supporting the proposed Glades Reservoir for future water supply.
Atlanta attorney Juliet Cohen, representing Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, said her environmental group believes the big North Hall reservoir is unnecessary.
"All the water that is dedicated or intended to go into Glades Reservoir is already being captured in Lake Lanier," Cohen said.
Cohen added that population projections used to justify the Glades project were inflated. Local opponent Billy Brookshire from Gainesville said the project would eventually drive taxes up and claimed consultant fees are 'bleeding the county dry'.
BIG PROJECT TABLED
Commissioner Scott Gibbs kept his promise to table rezoning that huge mixed use development on Highway 365 but let developer Patrick Clark from Barker Street of Marietta make the request to give them time to work with property holders.
Gibbs said he wanted it delayed so developers could work out how the project would get county sewer.
"We would like to request a 30 day extension or deferral for this case," Clark told commissioners. "We feel this s a very big project and it merits all the attention necessary to make sure it is a success for the county and for the owners."
The 476 acre residential commercial project comes back before the commissioners at their second meeting in January and it will be re-advertized. Hall County planning commissioners recommended approval.