Cost of major road project could be more than originally estimated

Grady County’s ambitious plan to rehabilitate Old 179 North may end up being more expensive than the county can afford.
Carlos Tobar, Grady County administrator, updated members of the county commission on information he learned last week while attending state training required for him to manage the project, which is slated to be paid for largely with state funds.
Tobar said an endangered species study and ecology study for the project would be required as well as a federal 404 permit.
“I have talked with (consulting engineer) Stacy Watkins and he says this is common. DOT has an environmental group that will help us through the process,” Tobar said.
Commissioner T.D. David said a study of the county treasury would be appropriate as he joked that it is becoming an endangered species.
“We need to know if we have to come up with mitigation or stream bank credits for this project. We need all of these answers and some hard numbers before we get too far into this,” Commission Chairman Charles Norton said.
Tobar insisted that this is part of the process and he is seeking bids for the required environmental studies.
Commissioner LaFaye Copeland asked where the money would come from to fund the studies. Tobar said it would have to come from the county’s local match.
“We did the south part and didn’t go through all this mess,” Commissioner Elwyn Childs commented.
Kevin S. Cauley, county commission attorney, said the difference may be that the county is proposing to widen the road and go outside existing rights-of-way on the north section.
Tobar admitted that an option may be to stay within the current right-of-way and not widen the road as originally planned.
“Don’t get too excited, and slow down, Carlos,” Commissioner Copeland warned.
Chairman Norton agreed and said the county did not need to be in a big hurry on this project. Tobar said he was fine as long as commissioners like Commissioner Childs would not get upset if the project is delayed. Childs has been a vocal critic and has pushed for the project to happen.
Commissioner Childs agreed that the county should look to maintaining the current width if that would eliminate the need for additional studies and requirement of a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In other business Tuesday, Tobar suggested the county host a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the Lewis Estates paving project in south Grady County. Tobar requested that the event be held on a Saturday so the daughter of the late Richard Kuhne could be present. According to Tobar, the daughter resides in Tallahassee during the week and is only here on the weekends.
“Why are we having a ribbon cutting on a road when we don’t have one for any other? What justifies a ribbon cutting for this one road?” Commissioner Childs asked.
Tobar said it would be an opportunity to honor the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, which awarded the county a Community Development Block Grant to finance the project, as well as the work of Rep. Darlene Taylor, Sen. Dean Burke, and Congressman Sanford Bishop.
“I wanted Mr. Kuhne’s daughter there, because if it hadn’t have been for him I would never have known the need. He brought it to my attention and assisted me greatly with the door-to-door survey of the residents down there,” Tobar said.
Kuhne died in April after qualifying to run for the District 3 county commission seat currently held by Chairman Norton.
County clerk Carrie Kines Croy said to have an official ribbon cutting involving the chamber of commerce would require holding it on a weekday.
No action was taken Tuesday and Tobar said he would contact the Kuhne family to determine whether the daughter could be here late one afternoon for a ribbon cutting ceremony.

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