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Firms hired to design ag arena
New county annex also slated for proposal
Bulloch County Seal PNG

Bulloch County commissioners have voted to hire two firms to perform design studies on a proposed agricultural center and a new county annex building.
The design studies will begin immediately, Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch said.
Populous Inc., of Knoxville, Tenn., will begin crafting a design proposal for a 50,000-square-foot “mixed use, open sided” agricultural arena which will be multipurpose.
Plans for the arena, to be built next to the Bulloch County Center for Agriculture on Langston Chapel Road,  have been in the works for about 14 years.
When the original proposal came about, commissioners then were met with some public concern about $6.1 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax set aside for what some called a “horse arena.” Commissioners clarified then that the arena would not only serve the equine sector, but would be used for trade shows, livestock events, car, truck and boat shows, industrial expositions, concerts, farmer’s markets and more.
Couch said nine firms applied for the project, and three were interviewed by a committee of county employees, with “input from (commissioners) Walter Gibson and Roy Thompson.” The group recommended Populous Inc. for the arena design and local business Palmer Architects to design the county annex.
According to a memo to Couch from Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Director Mike Rollins,  who was on the committee, Populous will “negotiate a contract for the first phase” of the arena construction if the commission is pleased with the design study, which will cost  county taxpayers $52,270 plus reimbursable expenses such as travel, lodging and meals.
The arena is to include minimum seating, restrooms, concession areas, parking, exhibit space and stalls. The project may take longer to complete than the annex design because of wetlands and space limitations at the Langston Chapel Road property, Couch said.
Ten firms applied for the county annex project, which will be constructed on North Main Street property across the street from the current county annex building. Four firms were interviewed, and the committee agreed on Palmer Architects to conduct a design study on a 10,000-square-foot office, with plans for an additional 20,000-square-foot construction in the future, according to information from county commissioner agenda packets.
Commissioners agreed to pay Palmer Architects $37,500 for the design study.
Both Populous and Palmer Architects will “do a long-term master plan for the sites and develop a construction program for the initial stages,” Couch said. “If we are pleased with their work, we will in all likelihood offer them a contract for full design. Predesign should take two to three months because the firms have to consult users as well as staff and commissioners.  “ 
Out of the original $6.1 million in 2007 SPLOST funds set aside for the arena project, only $4.1 million is left.   The original sum was “in the referendum, but only about 90-92 percent of the total 2002 SPLOST came in because the local economy didn't fully recover until 2005-06,” he said.
Expenses for the current agricultural office complex, (Bulloch County Center for Agriculture), as well as a road connecting U.S. Highway 301 South and Langston Chapel Road, were deducted from the original sum, as were expenses for previous feasibility studies conducted in prior years and fees for “Hussey, Gay, Bell and DeYoung and other consultants drawing up plans” with estimates that far exceeded budgeted funds, Couch said.
Populous has stated the arena should be able to be constructed within budget. Spokesmen for the firm “seemed very confident that $4.1 million would go a long way. They have done 105 (agricultural) arenas of varying size around the country,” Couch said.
The money funding the county annex project will come from a combination of 2007 SPLOST and 1997 SPLOST funds.
The cost of the annex construction is expected to be around $1.6 million, and will “be a two- or three- phase project over time,” he said.
The new building will house the Bulloch County tax commissioner’s office, as well as voter registration and the board of elections offices, with additional judicial courtroom space and other offices in the future, he said.
The current annex building will remain “a useful and active building,” and will likely house planning and zoning offices and inspections offices, he said.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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