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County to build new agricultural building

Decatur County commissioners signed off on a contract to construct a new agricultural office building and lease part of the space to the federal government for its use.

At their Tuesday morning meeting, commissioners unanimously approved a final agreement to lease 3,885 square feet in the planned building to the federal government, which maintains local offices for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency.

The new building will also house the Decatur County Cooperative Extension Office and its 4-H program, both of which are jointly funded by the county and the state government.

The existing building that houses the federal and local offices was built in the 1950s, has a leaky roof and is generally in a state of disrepair, County Administrator Tom Patton said.

The new building — 9,724 total square feet — will be constructed by the county on land located on Coachman Street, near the Cloud Agricultural Building. Both buildings are located on the rear portion of the county’s fairgrounds off Georgia State Route 97 North.

In return for using 2,632 square feet for the Farm Service Agency offices, 1,108 square feet for the conservation service offices and 145 square feet for miscellaneous use, the U.S. government has agreed to pay an annual lease of $44,832.90.

County Finance Director Carl Rowland said the county’s Public Works Department will begin clearing and leveling the construction site immediately. Per the agreement, the building has to be completed and ready to move into by Feb. 28, 2012.

The project cost is expected to be somewhere between $500,000 and $700,000, depending on the cost of construction materials and other variables, Rowland said. Decatur County Prison inmates will perform most of the construction, with electricians and other specialists to be hired to finish the building, he said.

The county will borrow money, using the future lease payments as collateral, to pay for most of the construction cost, Rowland said.

In addition to larger, modern offices, the new agricultural building will have a much better paved parking lot, according to the plans. There will be a covered entryway out front, which may help parents who drop off students participating in the 4-H program in the event of bad weather. The building will be made of metal and stone, with the stone on its front façade matching the look of the stone on the Cloud Agricultural Building.

For more information about the Decatur County Extension office, including how to enroll children and youth in the 4-H program, interested persons may visit www.caes.uga.edu/extension/decatur/ or call (229) 248-3033.