Cashiers rec center gets green light

The Cashiers Recreation Center is back on track following a unanimous vote this week by Jackson County commissioners to move forward with the $8 million project.

Commissioners voted to use money from the county’s fund balance instead of taking out a loan, and to hire a professional cost estimator to figure out the bottom-line price tag.

Current estimates are based on blueprints that have been on the shelf since 2006. If anything, given the crash of the construction market since then, Jackson County can anticipate a probable improvement on the original guesstimates.

The county already has spent about $3 million on the project in the past five years getting a site ready. County Manager Chuck Wooten said a fire-pump station is still needed to ensure future sprinklers have the water to operate. But otherwise, he said, the county is about ready to go through a punch (or to-do list) for that part of the project.

Cashiers’ recreation center has been a sore point for that community, which is isolated by virtue of geography. The residents in that area shoulder the bulk of Jackson County’s tax base, but often complain of seeing little return for their dollars.

The project hit environmental snags (the site is in the protected headwaters of the Chatooga River), which triggered correspondingly higher costs. The county had to pay an additional $900,000 for site work between 2006 and 2008 to comply with the regulatory demands.

The project almost hit another potential roadblock when Chairman Jack Debnam shied at designating the fund balance as the source of funding. He said he wanted more time to study whether the county might be better off taking out a loan. With Wooten saying commissioners couldn’t move forward at this time without detailing where they’d get the money from, and a motion from Commissioner Mark Jones, a resident of Cashiers, already on the table, Debnam voted “yes,” too.

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