The Whitfield County Board of Commissioners held what may have been their final meeting in Administrative Building 2 on Monday.
Dalton Tea Party organizer Naomi Swanson was one of a half dozen members of the public at Monday's meeting and has regularly attended commission meetings during the last nine years. She said she's only gone to the commissioners meeting room and can't speak to the condition of the rest of the building. But the meeting room, she says, has a serious flaw.
"The acoustics are horrible," she said. "I've spoken to the chairman several times about that, and she has tried to get the commissioners to speak into their microphones and it's still a challenge to hear them. So just because of that, I'm glad they are moving somewhere else."
Swanson noted that during this past winter commissioners moved their meetings around the county.
"They went to gymnasiums, a fire station. I said then I was glad they were moving the meetings around and that was the key reason," she said. "We were better able to hear them. It's not just the acoustics. The audience is so far away from them (in Administrative Building 2). I hope that moving to another meeting room will make it easier for the audience to hear them and to participate."
Acoustics have been a recurring complaint by audience members since commissioners moved their meetings from the courthouse into the building at 214 W. King St. some 13 years ago.
And the complaints were not just from audience members. In the early meetings in the room, before commissioners had individual microphones, some complained they had trouble hearing each other even though they were seated just a few feet apart.
But now, commissioners plan to move all county offices out of the building and will likely tear it down.
"I hope this will be our last meeting here," said board Chairman Lynn Laughter on Monday.
Administrative Building 2 currently houses the offices of the accountability courts — Domestic Violence Court, Drug Court and Mental Health Court — and the RESOLV (Recognizing, Exposing, Stopping Our Learned Violence) Project anger management program, a nonprofit program that works with the accountability courts in Whitfield and Murray counties. Those offices will be moved in the coming weeks into Administrative Building 1 at 301 W. Crawford St.
Administrative Building 1 currently houses county administration, engineering, information technology, finance, human resources, building inspector and public relations offices. Most of those offices are being moved onto the fourth and fifth floors of the Wells Fargo Bank building at 201 S. Hamilton St. County officials say they hope to have those offices relocated by the middle of this month.
Commissioners in April approved a two-year lease for the top three floors of the Wells Fargo building. The county will pay $10,160 a month for a little over 18,000 square feet.
Laughter said future commission meetings will likely be in the Wells Fargo building, which has a meeting room.
"The move (into the Wells Fargo building) is in process and has been for the last couple of weeks," said County Administrator Mark Gibson. "The county has had to install computer network equipment, security doors and access control equipment, all of which take some time. The Public Defender's Office, IT (information technology) department and engineering department are there now. Finance and HR (human resources) are in the process of moving now. I expect the final offices to be moved in within the next two weeks."
Inspections and code enforcement have been moved to the former recreation department headquarters on Gillespie Drive.
Gibson said the offices in Administrative Building 2 can move into Administrative Building 1 as soon as that facility is empty. He said he expects that move to take a couple of weeks.
"Once all moving has been done, the (Board of Commissioners) will decide what the future of the Admin 2 building will be," Gibson said. "There will be ongoing discussion amongst the board with regard to that."
Commissioners voted 3-2 at their June 10 meeting to reject a bid from Complete Demolition Services of Newnan to tear down the building. Four of the five commissioners indicated they believed the building should be torn down, but some said they believed the county public works department could do it at a lower cost.
Administrative Building 2, at the corner of King Street and Selvidge Street, dates to the 1960s and has a number of structural issues. The Dalton Fire Department sent the county a three-page letter last year detailing how the building failed to meet the fire code in several ways.
In March, the Dalton Fire Department sent county officials a letter telling them the county would have to vacate the building by April 1. The sides later reached an agreement that the county could continue to use the building while commissioners decided what to do with it as long as they have a certified firefighter in the building performing “fire watch” patrol whenever there are people in the building.