By Jonathan Copsey; Appen Newspapers
Milton - The Milton council approved looking into the purchase of nearly five acres of land near Bethany Road on Highway 9, with tentative plans to put a new public safety facility on the property.
For the price of $1.39 million, the city will gain a long rectangle of space just south of the intersection. The city has 90 days to perform environmental and suitability studies to determine whether the land can be developed or if water and deposits in the ground might hamper construction there.
Despite the council's approval to purchase the land, City Manager Chris Lagerbloom took pains to explain the city was under no obligation to buy the property.
"The city believes it has a strong purchase contract, to the extent that if the evaluation of the site is not favorable to the city, we are under no obligation to buy," he said.
City Attorney Ken Jarrard concurred. Despite the city putting down 5 percent of the purchase price – $68,900 – the contract allows Milton to get it all back and drop the deal for any reason whatsoever, or no reason at all, Jarrard said at the council meeting.
The big question is what does the city want to do with the property?
According to Lagerbloom, plans are still largely up in the air, but there is a very real possibility the city would build a public safety complex, to include both police and fire offices.
Putting public safety offices along Highway 9 makes sense, he said, since the vast majority of the city's population lives on or near that road and most police and emergency calls come from that area.
Additionally, the city is currently paying $38,000 a month in rent for their office space on Deerfield Parkway, which includes all city public safety offices.
By moving some offices out to other areas of the city, such as any potential building on the new property, Milton can reduce its need in the Deerfield Parkway offices and possibly cut rent substantially.
Since last year, Milton and Alpharetta have an agreement of automatic aid. They share 911 services, as well as emergency vehicles – a Milton fire truck is housed in an Alpharetta station, for instance.
Would building a new public safety building impact the agreement? Lagerbloom is confident it would not be a problem.
"The agreement works so well, a new facility should not affect it," he said.
The city has 90 days to reach a decision on the land.