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County, feds at odds over lease agreement
County balks at requirements for space in extension building
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A deal for a federal agency to move into a county-owned building under construction is off, and Effingham County commissioners had strong sentiments toward the federal government for added stipulations to the lease agreement.

“The property arm of the government has thrown this additional requirement at us that has messed up the deal,” said county attorney Eric Gotwalt.

Commissioners approved a lease agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for space in the agriculture extension building currently being built across the street from Effingham Animal Control. Under the original agreement, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency would lease 2,152 square feet of the approximately 6,000 square foot building for $1,345 a month.

But in a letter to the county, the General Services Administration notified a need for glazed windows and separate heating and air conditioning units for their portion if they were being charged rent. County project manager Adam Kobek told commissioners that the request isn’t coming from local or regional USDA offices but further up the chain of command.

“The state office has let us know it is the world they live in,” he said.

The county has provided the Farm Service Agency with space at no cost for some time, County Administrator David Crawley said.

“The requirements they have placed for additional space are ridiculous,” he said.

“Our construction crews are at a standstill waiting to hook up power and put up walls,” Kobek said.

Commissioners voted to rescind the lease and voiced their ire with the federal government’s requests.

“We could send them a letter to tell them to go find another hole to crawl into,” quipped 1st District Commissioner Hubert Sapp.

The commissioners are scheduled to take up the matter of reallocating the space in the county extension building and sending a letter to the FSA about the relocation of its office.

County commissioners also have been in talks with Georgia Power about the cost of relocating utilities along Old Augusta Road.

“We have been back and forth with Georgia Power a few times,” Crawley said. “There have been some very candid discussions with Georgia Power on the transmission and distribution lines.”

The utility relocation is holding up construction of phase 1, which is 2.75 miles long, according to Crawley.

The county also balked at the cost. The original estimate was $725,000.

“That represented a significant portion of the $5 million project,” Crawley said.

The county is proposing not to have costs to the county exceed $95,133.