BOC grants easement for Southern Crescent Technical College

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Henry County now has an official stake in the Southern Crescent Technical College campus.

The Board of Commissioners voted at it October 18 regular meeting to accept conveyance of an easement from the state for the McDonough property where the SCTC facility is being built. The move was a legal necessity for a couple of reasons.

The latest SPLOST referendum passed in the fall of 2013 designates $5 million for SCTC, with the state to pay the balance of nearly $21 million. A condition of the resolution is that the county have an interest in the property. But the state plans to use general obligation bonds to pay its portion, and state law requires that money be spent on property that is state-owned.

County attorney Patrick Jaugstetter said giving an easement to the county would satisfy the legal obligation of the resolution and would work for both parties. The only other option is for the county to require fee simple title, and Jaugstetter said that the deal would not happen under that condition.

“It is my understanding that the plans are completed, permits are in hand, and a construction manager has been hired who is bidding out the work,” said Jaugstetter. “They want to put students in the seats by January of 2018.”

Had the county refused to work out the easement arrangement, the state would have gone back and considered whether to even proceed, and if so how to reduce the size of the project so that county’s $5 million contribution would not be necessary.

The location of the easement had not been decided by the October 18 vote, which was only to establish whether it would be done.

Chairman Tommy Smith was the lone dissenting vote. He said the only reason the project was on the SPLOST ballot was because the county expected to have some significant interest in the property.

“I don’t think the intent of the taxpayers was to invest $5 million and just get an easement,” said Smith. “They wanted to be part of it.”

All of Smith’s colleagues took the opposite view, which is that the easement is sufficient to satisfy what the law and the SPLOST voters wanted.

“I look forward to doing what the taxpayers asked us to do,” said Commissioner Gary Bar-ham, who called the SCTC development “very important” and cited Briggs & Stratton (formerly Snapper), which closed down in McDonough a few years ago, as a company that would still be in Henry County if a technical school were in the community.