Whitfield County officials said recently they plan to have several county offices moved into the Wells Fargo Bank building at 201 S. Hamilton St. in downtown Dalton by July 1. County commissioners approved a two-year lease for the top three floors of the building in April. The county will pay $10,160 a month plus part of the utilities for slightly more than 18,000 square feet.
The commissioners approved the lease after a proposed 1%, six-year, $100 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) was defeated in March that would have, among other things, had the county use money from the SPLOST to demolish Administrative Buildings 1 and 2 (Building 2 with severe structural issues) and replace them with a new taxpayer services building ($5.7 million) that would have housed the tax commissioner’s office and tax assessor’s office, and a new government services building ($18.2 million) that would have contained all other county offices other than those related to the judicial system.
Commissioners have said the moves into the Wells Fargo Bank building are not a permanent solution.
We have to ask: Why not?
"But it will give us time to put together a long-range plan that can be funded by a SPLOST that is smaller and more targeted," said Commissioner Greg Jones.
That is unfortunate.
Commissioners must get out of their knee-jerk mindset of thinking SPLOSTs are the answers to their "problems" and consider other means of achieving the county's ends.
The moves into the Wells Fargo Bank building come at a much less expensive cost than constructing the new buildings, and that is a good thing. We hope it's not just a temporary good thing. If it can be worked out, it would be ideal if the county can continue to locate those offices in the Wells Fargo bank building going forward, obviating the need for spending millions of dollars on new building construction. Why spend $23.9 million for new buildings if space is available for $121,920 a year that will work just as well?
The moves also benefit downtown Dalton in that a building there now has three floors occupied that might not otherwise be filled. That is another good thing.
We hope the commissioners will seriously consider extending the lease for the Wells Fargo Bank building. That would seem to benefit both the county and downtown Dalton, and the taxpayers of the county as well.