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Posted: April 5, 2009 12:01 a.m.

New, historic city hall open for business

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City Clerk Susan Roper stands by one of the original fireplaces preserved in the renovated city hall.

The paint is freshly dry, the landscaping still raw and staff still unpacking boxes, but the brand new Social Circle city hall is running and ready for business.

The staff gradually moved into the renovated antebellum house on Cherokee Road, just behind the previous city hall building, over the past weekend, braving the spring downpours, said City Clerk Susan Roper.

"We knew it would be wonderful when we got here," she said.

City Manager Doug White echoed the sentiment. "We are excited to be in the new building," he said.

The roughly 7,700 square-foot historic home has 16 rooms downstairs, including bathrooms, and eight rooms upstairs. A new section was built onto the back to create a drive-thru window for customers, along with a file storage area for records and a new set of outside stairs to comply with the fire code. In addition to housing existing city hall staff offices, the building also has a training room for public safety officers and room to grow with a spare office.

The house and renovations cost approximately $1.2 million, drawn from reserve funds, according to Roper. The renovations were more complex than originally estimated, said White, because the house, which sloped, needed to be leveled. The work was bid out to Sam Maloy & Son from Walton County.

The motivation for the new city hall came from the public safety department’s need for more space, which currently shares space with the fire department, said White. The PSD will now move into the old city hall building. The community center will continue to be used for public meetings.

"We knew that we were going to have to build a second public safety building," said White. He said when the house became available, the location seemed ideal because it was still downtown, adjacent to the old city hall lot, and the public safety headquarters could be kept downtown. The city had been considering building a facility at the Mill site before the offer for the house became available.

"By keeping this building here and opening up a building for the Public Safety Department, we saved our SPLOST money for the second fire station" said White. He added, "We now have the Mill site still available for future development and there has been some interest on that site."

Mayor Jim Burgess and a partner had originally purchased the home about 15 months ago with an idea of turning it into a bed and breakfast. The previous owner, Kathleen Hester died a few years ago, leaving it to her two sons who resided in metro Atlanta and did not wish to maintain the property. The house was put up for auction and bought by Burgess for about $235,000. The house, said Burgess, was appraised at $428,000.

The city purchased it from Burgess for the same amount he paid.

An open house will be scheduled in the near future, possibly by early May.

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