County extends lease for DFCS

LAWRENCEVILLE -- For now, the Department of Children and Family Services will remain at its Lawrenceville location.

Commissioners approved a month-to-month renewal for the state agency's Gwinnett offices, as officials await the conclusion of a second bid process.

Earlier this year, the process to find a new location was stymied by allegations of improper communication during the bid process. In a lawsuit, one bidder said Gwinnett Commissioner John Heard demanded money for help, although Heard and other officials have denied the allegations.

Heard abstained from Tuesday's vote to extend the county contract, which has been in place since 2003, saying that he wanted to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest. Heard submitted a bid during the initial process, but he did not submit one during the rebidding.

Deputy County Administrator Aaron Bovos said the state agency had contacted the county several times in recent years to accommodate its offices. But with the growth in the services, DFCS sought 100,000 square feet, which is double the amount of office space the agency currently leases to the agency at One Justice Square, located on West Crogan Street in Lawrenceville. Bovos said the county did not pursue a contract because it did not have the adequate space available.

While the agreement approved Tuesday extends the One Justice Square lease for up to five years, DFCS can terminate the contract with 90 days notice. At a rate of $22.50 per square foot, the agreement is lower than the previous contract, which expired at the end of June, because the original contract added compensation for furniture and telephones.

Questions directed to a spokeswoman for DFCS were not answered Tuesday.