Size does matter — at least when it comes to the proposed Oglethorpe Convention Center.
Brunswick city commissioners debated a proposal to approve a contract for pre-construction services and construction of the convention center. But when it came to the vote at Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners were tied 2-2, with Julie Martin and Johnny Cason voting against the proposal and Vincent Williams and Mayor Cornell Harvey voting for the proposal.
Commissioner Felicia Harris said she could not vote either way on the proposal but her indecision had nothing to do with the motion calling for a study on a 20,000 square-foot center.
Cason and Martin argued a vote without determining the size of the center was a potential waste of taxpayer dollars. The study would cost an estimated $35,000, not counting architect’s fees to design the center.
City attorney Brian Corry and City Manager Jim Drumm also recommended determining the size of the center before paying for the pre-construction and construction cost estimates.
“I think there has not been a clear and concise direction from the commission,” Corry said. “We have not had a clear, concise direction for a year.”
Drumm cautioned commissioners that if the cost for a 20,000-square-foot center is too high, the city will have to pay for another pre-construciton and construction study for a smaller center.
LaRon Bennett, chair of the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, said a study for a 20,000-square-foot center will still be helpful, even if it leads to the decision to build a smaller center.
“The study will give the cost to determine if you want to proceed with it,” Bennett said.
Cason said a smaller, 12,000- to 14,000-square-foot recommended by a consultant several months ago could save the city millions and still meet the needs of the city.
“This commission has not voted on the size of a conference center,” he said.
A second vote was taken after more discussion, but it ended in a 2-2 stalemate, with Harris still undecided. The issue will be discussed at the next city commission meeting in December.
Harvey said the lingering debate may cost the city.
“We’re on the verge of losing the hotel because of our indecision,” he said.
The LCP Superfund site was discussed at a public workshop held before the meeting. Commissioners later voted to reject the proposal by Honeywell for the city to accept the cleanup and use the property for non-residential use.
“We want it cleaned up,” Cason said. “We want it for its highest and best use. It’s imperative to get this place clean.”
Other commissioners agreed and passed a resolution rejecting a the Honeywell offer and asking for a better cleanup of the site.
City officials also listened to a presentation for a study to analyze possible routes for a public transit system in Brunswick.
The routes will only be offered in the city limits because of federal funding guidelines that prevent public transportation outside urbanized areas.
Drumm said studies show a greater demand for public transportation than a decade ago when a similar plan was derailed by the Great Recession.
The study will determine the routes and types of vehicles needed to provided the service.
“I think we’ve studied this long enough,” Williams said. “It’s time to move forward.”
City officials were told there is potential to lower flood insurance rates and better protect residents by implementing changes such as buffers, green spaces, building codes and new ordinances. It was recommended for city officials to look at other Coastal Georgia communities such as Savannah and St. Marys for ways those municipalities lowered their flood insurance rates.
Commissioners approve a request for the brewing and manufacturing of beer for Silver Bluff Brewing Company. The brewery needed approval to begin making the product is will sell when it opens sometime during the first quarter of 2020.