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Commissioners balk on 20th Street project

After having lost out on obtaining a grant to pay for a large portion of major road work on 20th Street S.E., both inside the city limits of Cairo and in unincorporated Grady County, the Grady County Commission on Tuesday voted to table approval of the 2017 Local Maintenance And Improvement Grant project report.
A majority of the four commissioners present Tuesday want the 20th Street project stripped out of the 2017 LMIG project list and postponed until the county has access to more money for transportation improvements.
Previously, the board had allocated $80,000 for the 20th Street project, but without a state grant, the county’s portion of the project increased by an estimated $103,348.
Grady County administrator Carlos Tobar said he had hoped to gain the board’s approval for the additional appropriation so that he could combine the 20th Street project with a similar project for the full depth reclamation of a section of Old 179 North within the corporate limits of the city of Whigham to achieve lower construction pricing for the two projects.
Tobar reminded commissioners that the Joint Development Authority, which had previously allocated $25,000 toward the project, had increased its commitment to $50,000 and the City of Cairo was expected to approve a total expenditure of $256,652 for the 20th Street project. The engineer’s estimate for the 20th Street project is $490,000.
“We have needs everywhere, but we’ve not had a new business go into the industrial park off 20th Street since 2008. According to Chadd Mathis of the JDA recruits have cited the condition of the road as a reason they have not come,” Tobar said.
“I don’t buy that,” commission Chairman Charles Norton said. He said that Hall Road and Joyner Road were “beefed” up several years ago to accommodate heavy truck traffic from the industrial park, a new bridge was constructed on Joyner Road, and that a turning lane was constructed at the intersection of Joyner Road and GA Hwy. 93 South.
“If we keep tying up LMIG and keep postponing work on some of these other roads that need repair it will be two to three years before we can do anything,” Chairman Norton commented.
The veteran District 3 county commissioner admitted 20th Street is in poor repair, but he noted that it was a low speed road. “You’ve got a lot of 55 mph roads out here if you don’t hold on to the wheel you’re going to hit a hole and go off into somebody’s field if you aren’t careful. There is more than one way in and out of that industrial park,” Norton said.
Commissioner T.D. David said that the project was not only an effort to facilitate economic development but also beautify the area, but in the middle of it was A&R Metals, a local scrap yard. David asked what was being planned to do about the scrap materials from creeping onto the right-of-way. Tobar indicated that section was within the city limits and was a city issue.
“It’s got to be repaired to be successful in recruiting business,” Tobar said.
“That’s hard for me to believe. I don’t smell smoke in the air but I don’t buy all this stuff, and I would feel differently if Hall Road and Joyner Road hadn’t been beefed up for just that purpose,” chairman Norton said.
Commissioner David said the board had planned all along to participate in the project and nothing was new, however, Chairman Norton said without the grant the county was having to invest more money into the project, which is money that will not be available for other road projects.
“We’ve got to prioritize this stuff,” Commissioner Ray Prince said. Prince also said that something had to be done on Open Pond Road where the county conducted an experiment with a piece of machinery it was considering purchasing for full depth reclamation projects.
Norton said there were other roads in immediate need of work in addition to Open Pond Road including Pine Park Road.
After much discussion, Commissioner David offered a motion to approve the project list as presented, but his motion died for lack of a second.
Commissioner LaFaye Copeland asked David if he would make a motion omitting 20th Street from the project list, but David declined. “I’ve made my motion. You can make one if you like.” David responded.
Tobar said the project could be postponed for a couple of years, but he suggested the successful recruitment of new businesses could also be delayed.
“I’m not trying to be hard boiled, but I wonder where they come up with this stuff,” Chairman Norton said.
The board voted 3-1 to table action and instructed Tobar to reprogram the money to do work on Open Pond Road, Pine Park Road and other roads that need patching. Only Commissioner David opposed.
Earlier in the meeting Tuesday, the board voted to approve the $100,000 supplemental LMIG allocation for 2016 which would go toward the full depth reclamation of three-fourths of a mile of Old 179 North within the Whigham city limits. The engineer’s estimate for this project is $311,251.50. That estimate includes $50,000 of in-kind labor by the county road department. The county will appropriate $100,000 in the supplemental 2016 LMIG allocation combined with $161,251.50 from the 2017 LMIG allocation.
The county’s total 2017 LMIG allocation is $660,542.24.

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