Dougherty leaders may have to resort to Eminent Domain: WALB-TV10, Albany NY, 1/8/07

By Karen Kohilas

Eminent Domain has long been a way for Governments to acquire property they need for public use. But Dougherty County leaders say they may have to resort to taking property for a new EMS station because the property owner can't be found.

If you take one look at the current headquarters for Dougherty County Emergency Medical Services, one word that may come to mind, is outdated. EMS Director Bobby Tripp says, "Some of the problems we have with this building is the age of the building, it was built in '81, the main problem we're having, is we're just out of room."

Out of room for the 80 employees who work for Dougherty County EMS. Can you imagine trying to train them all in one tiny room? Tripp says, "They just don't have room to live and to work."

That's why the county wants to build a new headquarters. The voters have already approved the build using sales tax money. But there's just one problem: The "perfect property" for the building, at the corner of 8th Avenue and Palmyra Road is owned by a man county leaders have lost contact with.

County Attorney Spencer Lee says, "At one time we thought that they were willing to sell for the appraised value and apparently they are not because we can't establish any further contact with the owner."

So now a public hearing will be held to let the public speak in favor of or against the acquisition. Then the county can move forward with their plans. Lee says, "If they vote to acquire the property through the use of eminent domain, then I'll begin the proceeding to do that."

And Tripp hopes that means he'll begin making plans for a move. He says, "A bigger building will help us, it will give us more space, but also we have a problem here with traffic. It's real congested here. It's hard to get in and out, and this location will help that."

By helping EMS workers respond to calls faster.

County Attorney Spencer Lee says he was in contact with property owner, Dr. William J. Freeman, but can no longer reach him or his attorney. If the county decides to move forward with the process, they will have to go through the court system. A public hearing will be held January 17th at 6:15 PM in the Government Center.

WALB-TV10, Albany NY: http://www.walb.com