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Local officials plan meeting with DOT on bridge project

Grady County commissioners are planning to travel to Atlanta to meet with members of the county’s legislative delegation and officials with the Georgia Department of Transportation in the coming weeks to discuss the bridge replacement project for the Hwy. 112 bridge over Sapp Creek.
The earliest work will begin, according to information provided from DOT to Grady County Administrator Carlos Tobar, is February 2016.
With the Tired Creek Lake dam set to be completed by year’s end the lake will begin to fill in 2015 and will likely be at full pool prior to the start of the bridge replacement project.
Tobar said that he has been communicating with DOT project manager Sonya Thompson on the project. Thompson has told Tobar that with an off-site detour the crossing at Sapp Creek would be closed for approximately 10 months. If the county was to request an on-site detour, which is a temporary bridge around the existing structure, the opening of the new bridge would likely be delayed until January 2018.
When county officials questioned Tobar about the state not beginning the work until 2016, the county administrator said that Ms. Thompson said the state would “work underwater.”
“The lake will not affect that bridge. The level of the lake will be about three feet below the existing bridge so the only reason it is being replaced is it is not wide enough to accommodate the daily traffic. They’ve known since 2010 that we had been awarded a permit and were building this lake. That’s been four years ago. I say let’s fill the lake and let them worry about it,” Commissioner Charles Norton said Tuesday.
“The state hasn’t asked us to delay filling have they?” County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley asked Tobar and the administrator responded, “no.”
The county attorney also asked Tobar for verification that the state engineers were aware the lake would be full by 2016 and Tobar said that, yes, the DOT was aware.
Commission Chairman T.D. David suggested the county put in writing its preference regarding an on-site or off-site detour and to obtain something in writing from the state that acknowledges that the lake would be filled by the time they begin construction on the new bridge.
“With something this big we need to have something in writing,” David said.
Commissioner Elwyn Childs said that the off-site detour would not be a big problem for motorists and voiced opposition to delaying the opening of the new bridge until 2018.
Commissioner Norton said the issue would be with detouring semis. “They would have to go from Pelham down Hwy. 93, but that’s not a real big problem either,” Norton said.
Vice Chairman LaFaye Copeland questioned what the impact would be for rerouting county school buses to pickup and deliver students to and from their homes.
Tobar said the state is requesting comment from Grady Emergency Medical Service, the Grady County Board of Education as well as the general public.
Commissioner Norton asked if the construction of an on-site temporary bridge would require approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Cauley said he was not certain if a permit from the Corps would be required, but he noted that would be the state’s issue and not the county’s.
Tobar reminded commissioners that the county was responsible for supplying the dirt for the new bridge, but he was not sure if the county would be required to supply the dirt for a temporary bridge.
“This is something we need to go sit down with DOT people in a position that know something,” Chairman David said.
Commissioner Norton agreed and said that Representative Darlene Taylor and Senator Dean Burke should be asked to join the commissioners in the meeting with the DOT.
“We don’t have a request not to impound, but we could get that tomorrow. We don’t know what’s going on and we need to find out and get all of our heads together,” Chairman David said.
Cauley told commissioners it was not uncommon for county officials to work to solve issues such as this from the top down rather than going up through the ranks of the DOT.
In other business Tuesday, the board:
Accepted the work by N&W Timber for the timber harvest at Tired Creek Lake and released the $50,000 performance bond check that has been held by the county.
Approved Tobar offering advice and expertise on seeking a grant for a sanitary sewer system for the city of Whigham. Whigham city officials met with Commissioner Elwyn Childs and County Administrator Tobar recently to discuss the need for city sewer in Whigham.
Authorized the county administrator to negotiate a 10-year lease with United States Department of Agriculture officials for the lease of a portion of the Agri-Center. According to Tobar, the county is competing with other landlords to offer office space to rent by the federal agencies.
Heard a report from Tobar that he had researched and found a right-of-way deed for Jamie Lane and Walt Road, which are two of the roads the county intends to pave with money from a Community Development Block Grant recently awarded to the county. The administrator said he is attempting to locate deeds for the remaining right-of-way needed for the project. Attorney Cauley has said on several occasions the county will have to acquire any property it does not own or have a deed to before improvement can be made.
Received a copy of a proposed long-term plan for Barber Park improvements from Recreation Director Becky Bracewell. A University of Georgia graduate student refined a master plan developed over two years ago by an undergraduate student and that final plan was presented to the county commission this week. It includes additional access to the park on Hwy. 93 near the Road Department as well as an expanded playground area and splash pad, archery practice range, new t-ball fields, a multipurpose building, walking trails and bike trails, plus more.
Met behind closed doors with attorneys Raleigh Rollins and Rob Howell, who are representing the county in legal proceedings involving Grady County State Court Judge Bill Bass Sr.

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