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A project that has caused heartburn for county officials for some time continues to be problematic as well as costly.
Grady County Commissioners voted Tuesday morning to accept the low bid from The Scruggs Company of Valdosta to complete the road and drainage improvements to Johnson Road, Pine Lakes Drive and Pine Hill Lakes Drive in south Grady County.
The low bid is $553,829.96 and county officials say the cost of the project is going to exceed the Community Development Block Grant awarded to the county for the project back in April 2018.
Facing a deadline to complete the project by April 15, 2021 and the limited resources of the county’s road department to do any more on the job, the county commission in December voted to put the project out to bid and allow a contractor to complete the necessary pre-paving work that county crews have been involved in doing.
The county was awarded $685,461 for the project and county finance director Holly Murkerson reports this week that $459,785.95 of the grant funds has not been spent.
The terms of the grant required the county to provide $300,172 in cash match and leverage. Murkerson said she would have to do additional research to determine how much of the county’s cash match and leverage had been invested in the project to date.
However, the county’s finance director said that based on the contractor’s bid, the county will have to come up with $150,000 in additional funding outside of the grant proceeds to complete the project. “That is, if all goes well,” Murkerson said.
Grady County Commission Chairman Phillip Drew says the project was too much to require of the county road department from the beginning. “Personally, I don’t think our former administrator should have ever recommended the project in the first place,” Drew said.
Drew does not blame the road department for the project being off schedule. “They have been stretched out too thin with other projects and responsibilities. This project was more than we could handle,” the commission chairman said.
To make up the shortfall, Drew says the county will tap reserves and utilize funding from the road department budget, but will not go into the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
“This is not a project that voters voted in the TSPLOST to do and we want to preserve those funds for the projects that the voters approved. That’s what we are going to do,” Chairman Drew said.
Work will begin as soon as the Georgia Department of Community Affairs approves The Scruggs Company as an approved contractor on this project, but Chairman Drew says he is unsure if the county can meet DCA’s April 15 deadline.
County road superintendent Stanley Elkins said that his crews still had less than a month’s worth of work to do, but that the contractor could begin work while county crews wrap up what they need to do. Weather will be another factor.
Late last year, Grady County administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, had requested DCA give the county until October to complete the work, but DCA officials only gave the county until April 15 to complete it.
The project includes the cost of paving of less than two miles of roadway on Johnson Road, Pine Lakes Drive and Pine Hill Lakes Drive and installation of approximately 1,200 linear feet of drainage pipe.
County officials say 140 local residents, 127 of whom are low to moderate income households, will benefit from the road and drainage improvements.
What happens if the work is not completed by April 15? “We don’t know at the moment,” Chairman Drew said and he added, “We have asked the contractor to begin work as soon as possible.”
This project was first proposed by former county administrator Carlos Tobar in 2016.
The county received a total of three bids on the project, the other bids were $597,768.10 from Oxford Construction Company of Albany and $740,084.36 from HTS Construction Inc. of Albany.