Originally created 07/23/02

County to vote on sale

Columbia County's fishing trip might be coming to an end.

The county's so-called "spec building" - a $1.8 million, 129,000-square-foot industry lure - could be sold this morning, pending a final vote by the Development Authority.

Under the terms of the deal, the county would turn over ownership of the building to a consortium of local banks. The consortium would then refinance the building using taxable industrial revenue bonds through the Development Authority and lease the building for 10 years to John Deere for warehouse space.

At the end of the lease, John Deere would have an option to purchase the building in Horizon South Industrial Park, where Deere is one of the anchor tenants.

Bryan Quinsey, the executive director of the Columbia County Development Authority, said the county will recoup the $1.8 million construction cost. However, other costs, including land, marketing and bond interest, would be absorbed by the county.

Mr. Quinsey said he didn't know what that cost would be, but other officials estimate it to be about $800,000.

"That's the cost of doing business," Mr. Quinsey said. "We have to look at the marketing value we've had for the four years we've had the building."

Site plans for the building, Project Log House, call for additional parking, a storage yard in back and a loading dock added to the building.

Officials have scheduled a news conference to announce the sale after the vote by Development Authority members, assuming they approve the deal.

Officials broke ground for the building in November 1997. The ensuing five years have seen cost overruns, failed sales and the use of marketing consultants.

Mr. Quinsey said selling the building is a good news-bad news proposition for Columbia County. The bad news is the county might be put on the state Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism's backburner.

"They have an A and a B list over there," he said. "Counties that have a spec building are on the A-list. Counties that do not have a spec building are not."

Mr. Quinsey said he would like to see another spec building in the county - one built without county dollars.

"I have to somehow find ways to build another building to get us back on the A-list, but without county money," he said.

County Commissioner Frank Spears, who has pushed for the sale of the spec building, said the planned announcement was great news. It means, he said, a piece of property is being taken out of county coffers and put on tax dockets.

"I've been waiting for this day for a long time," he said. "Ever since I was first elected, I felt like the spec building should have been sold."

"We have to look at the marketing value we've had for the four years we've had the building." - Bryan Quinsey, Development Authority executive director

Reach Jason B. Smith at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115, or jbsmith@augustachronicle.com.


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