Originally created 07/09/98

Party opposes building plans on jail, annex

With less than two weeks before a referendum on a proposed courthouse annex and jail expansion, the Columbia County Democratic Party is taking a stand against the projects.

Party Chairman Buck Story said the county needs both the courthouse annex and jail. But the party just cannot support the current plans and cost estimates for the facilities, he said.

"I definitely feel we do need a courthouse," Mr. Story said, adding that the party would prefer an Appling location for the courthouse annex if it is approved.

Earlier this week, 12 party members voted to oppose the two projects but agreed to not actively campaign against them.

Part of the opposition stems from the county misinforming voters about the long-term costs of the projects, such as jail personnel and utilities, Mr. Story said.

"I feel like we're being a little misled," he said.

For example, an expanded jail will need a larger staff, increasing the costs to run the jail. Also, he said, costs to put sewer service in Appling for a courthouse annex should not be that much more than in Evans.

On July 21, a local voter referendum will be held on whether bonds totaling $28.7 million should be issued to pay for construction of a courthouse annex and jail expansion. The projects are expected to cost $35.2 million. A straw poll will be held on whether the annex should be located in Appling or Evans. The jail expansion will be done at the current jail in Appling.

Columbia County Commission Chairman Jim Whitehead -- a Republican -- said he is disappointed in the Democratic Party's opposition.

"I'm not going to be critical," Mr. Whitehead said. "I would rather them vote to put it in Appling than oppose it altogether."

Mr. Whitehead said he thinks the county has done its job of informing the public of what cost estimates it has available.

"What we're giving you is construction costs and not (operation and maintenance) costs," Mr. Whitehead said.

The county's Republican Party has not taken a vote on the bond referendum, Chairman Alvin G. Starks said.


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