County commissioners move forward with project to pave two private drives

A rare Monday morning public hearing was held by the Grady County Commission this week and not surprisingly not a single member of the public attended the 10 a.m. session.
The hearing was held as a requirement of applying for a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant, however minutes of the Grady County Commission do not reflect the board of commissioners ever formally voting to schedule a Monday morning public hearing.
Traditionally, public hearings held by the county commission are held in the evening and the majority are held in conjunction with the board’s night meetings, which are held on the third Tuesday of each month.
The public notice of the Jan. 29 hearing, which was published once in the county’s legal organ, does not indicate that the purpose of the grant is to pave and make drainage improvements to two private drives and one county road in south Grady County.
Former Grady County administrator Carlos Tobar proposed the grant project to county commissioners in 2016, but the board backed away in March 2016 due to concerns related to the acquisition of required right-of-way for the project.
At that time, Tobar told commissioners he would spend the remainder of 2016 and early 2017 obtaining the necessary right-of-way in order to submit an application by March 31, 2017.
The Grady County Commission approved making application for the grant last spring, but last September it was learned the county’s application was not approved.
Tobar said the issue was that the county had not completed the acquisition of the right-of-way prior to submitting the application and once all of the right-of-way was acquired the county could reapply and the application would receive a better score.
As of Tuesday of this week, Grady County still has six tracts to acquire and local attorney Charlie Ferenchick is working with the four owners of those six tracts to complete the right-of-way acquisition.
Diane Parten of grant writer Bob Roberson’s office has told county officials that the right-of-way acquisition must be completed by March 31 and prior to the submission of the grant application in order for the county’s application to receive bonus points. If only partially complete, the county would receive fewer points, according to Parten.
Parten also offered a different explanation as to why the county’s application was not approved last year. According to her, the grant scored very high last year, “but the required local government finance survey was not submitted in time, so the grant was ineligible for funding. It is my understanding that Grady County completed it but it was not submitted in time to meet DCA’s (Department of Community Affairs) deadline.”
Grady County Clerk Carrie Croy, who has been assigned administrative duties while the county seeks a new county administrator, said that the local government finance survey was a report Tobar was supposed to have prepared and submitted prior to the deadline but did not.
Tobar told commissioners last September he would seek the board’s authorization in December 2017 to reapply, but this also never occurred.
At the Jan. 16, 2018 county commission meeting, Croy included on the agenda a resolution under the consent items for the board to authorize Chairman Ray Prince to execute.
However, at the Jan. 16 meeting Commissioner Keith Moye raised concerns about proceeding with the grant application.
Chairman Prince pledged that he would not sign the resolution until all of the required right-of-way had been acquired. Based on the resolution’s language, until Prince executes it, the board has not authorized the grant writer to submit the grant application. It is also unlikely Prince could have signed the resolution prior to Jan. 29 since the resolution stated that a public hearing on the grant application had been held when in fact it had not as of Jan. 16.
The Messenger has requested the amount of money spent by the county on professional services and legal fees to date on the project as well as an estimate on the labor and equipment expense of the county road department to complete the planned improvements for Pine Lakes Drive and Pine Hill Lakes Drive as well as Johnson Road.
The grant writer is set to be paid a six percent fee of the $750,000 grant if approved and consulting engineer Stacy Watkins will be paid 8-12 percent of construction costs, according to county officials.
During the Jan. 16 commission meeting, two residents of the impacted area appeared before the board seeking information about the project following the departure of Tobar.
Chairman Prince assured the residents the county was still working on obtaining the grant so that the private drives and one county road could be paved.
During this week’s public hearing, Commissioner June Knight asked for background on the project. The new District 1 commissioner then made the case for improvements to be made to Old 179 and Open Pond Road saying those roads are also in horrible condition.
Commissioner Moye said that unfortunately those roads did not have the concentration of low income residents required for funding of CDBG projects.
Chairman Prince said that the county is looking at other ways to fast track improvements to those roads in Commissioner Knight’s district.
“I’ve got people stopping by my store just to tell me how bad those roads are so you know it’s got to be really bad,” Commissioner Knight said.

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