MOULTRIE -- A request to change construction for the courthouse annex drew strong criticism Tuesday from one county commissioner, who said he fears others could follow.

Commissioners Luke Strong and Ray Norman voted against approving the change order. Commissioners Randy Bannister, Max Hancock, Billy Herndon, Ray Saunders and Merle Hall voted to approve the change.

"I have a problem with change orders," Strong said. "We've experienced this with other projects. I don't feel we should have to come back."

The change presented by Valdosta architect Rusty McCall involves the main structural braces of the building, located by the elevator shaft. The total cost is $1,801, including $1,148 for extra steel and $320 in labor.

In a letter to commissioners, McCall said that after consulting with the contractor, JCI General Contractors, it was agreed that a change in the bracing would be an improvement.

"Currently, the brace goes from the bottom of the elevator pit up to the first floor framing," the letter said. "A better solution to the location of the bracing will be to shorten the brace so that it occurs from the basement floor up to the first floor framing and to relocate part of that bracing along the first floor as indicated in the attached sketch from our structural engineer."

The change also involves adding steel connections in the elevator pit to attach the elevator pit access ladder and lift beams across the top of the elevator shaft to install and service the elevators.

Norman said that he felt that if commission is quick to approve such changes it would make it easier for other changes to follow.

McCall said that any recommendations for change orders, if they become necessary, will be brought to commission for approval.

"I recognize there are going to be things as we continue to go forward on a project of this size," Chairman Hancock said.

In other business Tuesday, commission:

* Adopted the tax millage rate for the 2001-2002 budget year. The millage rates established are 13.31 in incorporated Colquitt County, which is the same as last year, and 11.45 in unincorporated areas, which is a slight decrease from last year's 11.56.

The millage rate in the special tax district rose to 2.67 from 2.37 last year. The special district tax is paid by residents outside Moultrie to pay for those residents' share of firefighting, recreation, operation of Withers Auditorium, Moultrie-Colquitt County Development Authority.

* Approved renewing a rental agreement with Georgia Department of Labor for office space in the Governmental Building at a cost of $2,556.

The lease includes office space, lights, water, heating, cooling and janitorial service.

The county also will give the agency notice that with its move to a new courthouse annex it will no longer be able to lease the office space.

* Agreed to purchase a used 1998 Chevrolet van at a cost of $18,750 from local dealership Edwards Motors for Colquitt County Sheriff's Department investigative unit, two used cars for Colquitt County Drug Enforcement Team from Edwards Motors at a cost of $18,600 and five 2002 Ford patrol cars from the sheriff's department from local dealership Hutson Motors at a cost of $101,360. Commission had budgeted $100,000 to purchase four cars, but agreed to spend an extra $1,360 for an additional car.

-- By Alan Mauldin

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