The county government recently compiled and released its annual SPLOST Tax Projects Summary, as required by state law.
Perhaps the most notable line item in the document is for “County Administrative Building,” which refers to the new annex on North Columbia Street near Carrington Woods. The “original estimated cost,” which was compiled back in 2017, was $10 million, according to the document. The “total expended,” meanwhile, is listed at $13,189,927, meaning that the final cost for the new annex was roughly $3.2 million more than originally estimated and presented to the public.
County Manager Carlos Tobar said that much of this was to be expected.
“There’s absolutely no way of knowing what your construction costs will be down the road. We ran into large increases in the price of materials, overseas tariffs and many different things. We also made some adjustments in the designs along the way,” he said. “But, the bottom line is that this community should be set for at least the next 40 years and has a building that it can be extremely proud of.”
Also, as recently as last spring, the county commission decided to expand the size of several meeting rooms at the annex on account of the pandemic, thus adding additional costs, Tobar added.
On the other hand, the amount spent for “Development Authority Property Purchases” actually came in roughly $1.3 million under the original estimate. This money covered the purchase of the large “Sibley Mega Site,” located south of Allen Memorial Drive and west of the bypass. Toyota briefly flirted with the idea of building a factory at the Sibley Mega Site several years ago, or at least Baldwin County was on Toyota’s radar.
“We are now in great position with (industry recruitment),” Tobar said. “We now have two different properties that are Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development certified.”
Also included in the SPLOST Summary are the figures for the new animal shelter on Linda Drive, as well as the new county health department by the hospital. Each project already has been completed and opened to the public.
In terms of a substantial difference between “original estimated cost” and “total expended,” the line item for “Communications System Improvement” also stands out. For this, the “original estimated cost” was placed at $660,000, while the “total expended” was $1.264 million. This spending entailed several rounds of upgrades to the county’s E911 system. The increased costs centered around new “pinging” technology and the need for dispatchers to be able to better pinpoint the location of cell phones, according to Tobar.
Meanwhile, another $2.6 million in SPLOST money originally was “estimated” for renovations and changes to the downtown courthouse. That construction currently continues. A total of $1.04 million was spent on “County courthouse facilities & equipment” in 2020, which represented 40 percent of the original $2.6 million estimate.
Here is a rundown for the projects through Dec. 31, 2020, with the first number representing “original estimated cost,” the second representing “total expended” and the third representing “percentage completion.”
• County Administrative building – $10 million / $13.189 million / 100 percent
• County Courthouse facilities & equipment – $2.6 million / $1.04 million / 40 percent
• Law Enforcement Center facilities & equipment – $750,000 / $1.386 million / 99 percent
• Health Dept. facilities & equipment – $200,000 / $239,332 / 99 percent
Development Authority Property purchase – $5.6 million, $4.312 million / 100 percent
Communications Systems improvements – $660,000 / $1.264 million / 100 percent
Recreation facilities & equipment (construction on new aquatic facility/ water park to begin soon) – $2 million / $38,510 / 2 percent
Economic Development projects – $1 million / $1.073 million / 85 percent
Animal Control facilities & equipment – $220,000 / $228,992 / 104 percent
Sr. Citizen facilities & equipment – $50,000 / $47,161 / 94 percent
Public Works, roads/bridges infrastructure – $9.47 million / $3.842 million / 41 percent