Officials said Wednesday the project has now been placed on hold for a second time.
“Based on projected [Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax] money and other ideas that we may have, we are going to temporarily hold it,” Commissioner Steve Taylor said. “Of course, our long-term thinking is for a building to be built for that original purpose on that same property. There is no rush to do that based on current cash flows as far as the SPLOST money goes.”
Located at the corner of Felton Road between Tennessee Street and U.S. 41 in Cartersville, the site will house in the future the Bartow County Fire Department headquarters, BCFD Station 1, Bartow County Emergency Medical Services and Bartow County Emergency Management Agency. The more than $5 million facility will be paid for using SPLOST funds approved in 2007.
A second round of bids, following the first two years ago, was received in December but they will be allowed to expire due to lack of revenue.
“This has been bid twice and it’s been held up twice, and it may be held up a third time,” Taylor said. “This is not something that’s critically, it’s not a serious problem getting this built right away as far as I’m concerned. It’s something the community needs, yes, but ... do we have to build the headquarters today? No. Do we have to start today? No.”
BCFD Fire Chief Craig Millsap called the most recent delay “unfortunate.”
“It’s kind of still a sign of the economy,” he said. “If the tax numbers aren’t there, we can’t do all the projects.”
Originally, plans called for the headquarters to add about 33 percent more space to the departments’ current square footage, which is roughly 26,000 square feet. Previous plans accounted for additional fire and EMS operations, as well as a basement to house an emergency command post.
Those plans may be altered in the future, Taylor said. “I can’t say for sure when we are going to start construction on the new fire department. We had some drawings but ... we will probably have to re-bid those and redo those.”
The county has put about $1 million into the project to date, Millsap said.
Figures from the December bids ranged from $4,173,000 to more than $4.5 million, which are in line with numbers in the initial bid in 2011.
The county’s 8-acre portion appraised for more than $1 million at the outset, but under an agreement with a trustee, the county put up $100,000, exchanging land for infrastructure work.
Former County Administrator Steve Bradley told The Daily Tribune News in 2011 the deal meant the county “didn't have to put so much cash into the purchase of the property. That's what the property owner wanted to do. They'd rather have the in-kind work than the cash."
At the same time, State Rep. Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, the trustee administrating the charitable trust left by John and Ann Collins, called the agreement a win-win situation.
"We needed the infrastructure, we needed the road, the water and the sewer. The problem with a charitable remainder trust is the only thing you can use that money for is for 501(c)3 — it has to be a nonprofit organization that the money goes to. If the county had paid for the land, the only way I could have used that money was to give it to nonprofit organizations and there would have been no money to put the road in, which I had to do," he said. "As soon as we get the rest of the land sold, these charities are going to get some money.
"All the revenues coming out of that goes to different nonprofit organizations, like Georgia Highlands College, Chattahoochee Technical College, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Advocates for Children, Tellus Science Museum — we used part of the trust to do The Big Back Yard in their honor. It is for charitable, nonprofit purposes."
The remaining 6 acres had been planned for commercial development, as the Georgia Department of Transportation is expected to take 8 acres to modify the Cloverleaf, the diamond intersection where U.S. 41 and U.S. 411 meet.
Millsap, who is currently acting as EMA director following the retirement of Johnny Payne in October, said although he would love to have the project started, the economy is beyond anyone’s control.
“We can’t make the money come in if it isn’t there.”