Rep. Taylor garners DOT funding for Old 179 project

State Representative Darlene Taylor has put her political muscle behind a major road project in Grady County and local officials learned this week that the state has committed $4.1 million toward the rehabilitation of Old 179 North from Whigham to the Mitchell County line.
In what is being described by at least one Georgia Department of Transportation official as the first project ever programmed by the state but to be built by a county, the Old 179 North project is now on the fast track.
“This is not the normal process, but I’ve been preaching about unusual partnerships and it really has worked out well. Everyone is contributing. The county is contributing, the city of Whigham is contributing and the state is contributing. I’m so proud we got it,” Rep. Taylor said Tuesday.
She added, “It helps to be sweet and nice. Honey goes a lot farther than vinegar. It also helps to have friends like Jay Roberts (the DOT planning director).”
Representative Taylor said she has been aware of the problem with Old 179 for some time, but she began working to obtain state aid three years ago. However, she said at that time there was no money available at the state level for such a project.
The state representative says the new transportation tax is generating new revenue that affords the state the opportunity to tackle additional projects such as this one.
“These are our state transportation dollars working in Grady County. This is a true needs project. Financing it has been the difficult part, but with a cooperative spirit between the county, Whigham and the state we made things happen,” Rep. Taylor said.
Not only has Taylor been working with Roberts, but she has also been lobbying DOT board members Johnny Floyd and Tim Golden as well as other board members.
“We had to get the DOT board to go along with this project, too,” she said.
According to Rep. Taylor, the DOT would not have agreed to such an arrangement if not for confidence in the county’s administrator, road superintendent and consulting engineer.
“You have to have the ability and resources to do a project like this. Some counties could not do their share, but you have the staff and capable folks to do it,” she said.
“I give a lot of credit to Carlos (Tobar, Grady County administrator) for not giving up on this project,” Rep. Taylor said.
She also credited the support of Sen. Dean Burke, who wrote a letter of support for the project to DOT officials.
Grady County officials expressed their gratitude for Rep. Taylor’s efforts and the support of the DOT, but Grady County Commission Chairman Charles Norton said financing the county’s match for the project would be a challenge.
“It will significantly cut down the resurfacing we can do in this county for the next couple of years,” Chairman Norton said. He added, “It’s amazing we could get that kind of money from the state for this project. I have to give it to Carlos, he worked really hard with Rep. Taylor to get it.”
Old 179 lies in District 1, which is represented by veteran Commissioner Elwyn Childs. Childs said Tuesday, “This is the result of cooperation between the county, the city of Whigham, the state, Rep. Taylor and Carlos Tobar working diligently to make this happen. The state DOT is really trying to help us and they really deserve a lot of the credit. If they didn’t want to help us they wouldn’t have done it. This is something that has needed to be done basically since the state gave us the road.”
The total projected cost of the project is $6,029,286.37, which includes the widening of the road and a full depth reclamation to build up the base of the road before it is resurfaced. Included in the project is the section of Old 179 which lies within the corporate city limits of Whigham.
According to Tobar, the city of Whigham can only contribute $23,848 to the project, which he says will come from the Local Maintenance Improvement Grant funds awarded to Whigham. The remaining $187,403 will be made up by Grady County in addition to $50,000 of county labor going into the Whigham portion of the project.
The county’s local match, according to Tobar, is $920,295.69 in cash and in-kind labor with the Grady County Road Department doing all of the earthwork at an estimated value of $835,142.68.
Grady County will also be responsible for the final engineering and design, construction inspection and testing, and according to Tobar, those total costs are not known as of Tuesday.
“I thank Rep. Taylor for shepherding this project. She provided advice to me on the content of my communications with the state and she advocated for this project. The city of Whigham owes a debt of gratitude to Rep. Taylor, as well,” Grady County administrator Carlos Tobar said Tuesday.
Tobar is recommending the county use the bulk of its Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant funding from the state for 2017 and 2018 to pay the cash match for the Old 179 project. The administrator predicts the county will receive from the state $660,000 in 2017 and in 2018 from LMIG.
“We also thank Watkins Engineering for having such a stellar reputation with the Department of Transportation that DOT was willing to accept his preliminary engineering report. DOT has confidence that Watkins Engineering will guide this project to completion,” Tobar said.
Once the county road department has completed its work on Gainous and Cedar Springs Road, Tobar said the county will move to the State Park Road project and the widening of Old 179.
Plans call to widen the former state route to 12-foot wide lanes. This would include the widening of 11 culverts and extending of 24 pipes. The county road department will widen the pipes, but the culvert work will be contracted out.
Tobar says the county must identify nearby suitable soil for the project and he encourages residents of Old 179 who are interested in donating dirt to the county to contact Road Superintendent Stanley Elkins at 229-377-4602.
Although the state funding will be made available on July 1, 2016, Tobar estimates it will take upwards of 20 months to complete the project once work gets underway.
In 2010, the county completed a full-depth reclamation project on Old 179 South, which runs from Whigham to Calvary and is 12.2 miles long. The total cost of that project was $2,240,430.67, of which the state contributed $691,000 and the county invested $1,459,030 in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax proceeds.
According to county officials, the last major improvement to the former state route was in 1975 when the DOT ended maintenance on the road and it became a county road.

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