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LaFAYETTE, Ga. -- Walker County will spend $1.3 million to build a new community center in Cedar Grove.

Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell accepted a bid from Construction Consultants during a public meeting Thursday afternoon. The money will come from special purpose local option sales tax collections.

Jack Killian, the project's architect, said the 10,000-square-foot building will be next to a fire station in the southwest corner of the county. Before construction can begin, Walker County employees have to level the ground, which is now a slope.

Killian expects the county to finish that part of the project by mid April. The rest of the construction is supposed to be finished after 210 days. So, barring any storms or any other distractions, the community center should be finished in November.

Heiskell said the building will have a gymnasium, a couple of rooms and a kitchen. It can serve as an emergency shelter if residents lose electricity, she said.

Walker County received bids from 12 companies to build the community center, ranging from $895,000 to $1.6 million. The lowest bidder, C&D Restoration, did not supply all the information that the county asked for.

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Heiskell chose Construction Consultants because, she said, the company had a good reputation.

She originally wanted to build a fire station-community center combination, but she said the construction companies wouldn't do it for less than $1.8 million. The county paid for a similar building in Villanow in 2010, but it only paid $1.3 million for that building last year.

The county is going to spend the same amount for a smaller building this time.

"A few years ago," Killian said, "we got more building for [the same amount of money]."

The decision to build the new community center comes two weeks after the county bought an abandoned bank building in Rock Spring for $880,000.

Heiskell said that building is necessary because the Georgia Department of Revenue demanded that the county hire three new tax assessors this year after state auditors determined that the assessors were not properly assessing Walker County's property values.

The county took out an $830,000 loan with Stearns Bank to buy the bank's old building. The county will spend $700,000 for the actual building and an additional $130,000 to renovate it.

If the county pays its loan on time, it also will pay about $50,000 in interest.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@ timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6476.

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