Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dolvin Foundation Considering Plans For Recreational And Educational Facility On Land Surrounding Oconee County’s Elder Mill Bridge

Mill Essential Component

Trustees for the Elizabeth Price Dolvin Foundation are exploring the possibility of creating an Oconee County environmental and heritage center modeled after a similar facility in Gwinnett County.

The facility would be on Elder Mill Road and incorporate property owned by the late Elizabeth Price Dolvin surrounding the iconic Elder Mill Bridge.

“There’s nothing for us to say about it right now other than that we are in conversations with Oconee County about an environmental and heritage center,” trustee Ray B. Burruss Jr., an Athens attorney, said last week.

Burruss did say that Elder Mill itself, which is not owned by the Dolvin Foundation, is an “integral” part of the planning and the county will need to acquire the mill and the 6-acre property on which it sits for the plan to be realized.

Conversation With County

Oconee County Parks and Recreation Director John Gentry told me last week that Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis had been approached by representatives of the Dolvin Foundation in the spring of this year.

Click To Enlarge

Davis referred the trustees to Gentry, and Gentry said he presented a number of options, including development of a heritage and environmental center similar to the one in Gwinnett County. The center is west of the Mall of Georgia between I-85 and I-985.

The Center’s web site says the facility’s “mission is to transform the concepts of science and history into interactive, learn-by-doing experiences that will encourage a visitor’s natural curiosity and sense of wonder about themselves and the world around them.”

The Center has exhibits, including a mill, trails, education programs, a daycare program, and facility rentals.

Foundation Properties

In addition to other properties around the county, the Dolvin Foundation owns nearly 320 acres on both sides of Elder Mill Road stretching from SR 15 to beyond the Elder Mill Bridge.

Elder Mill Bridge

Burruss said current plans assume only a part of that property would be incorporated into the environmental and heritage center.

At least four other properties, including the one on which the mill sits, are owned by other parties.

The mill property is owned by Ann Morgan of Athens.

The mill is extremely well preserved, sitting just down Little Rose Creek from the bridge named after it.

The bridge was built in 1897 and carried the Watkinsville-Athens road (now north Main Street) across Calls Creek. The bridge was moved to its present location in 1924.

Concept Plan

Gentry and others in the county have long had an interest in incorporating the land around the bridge and mill into a park.

Williams and Associates, a local land planning firm, drew a conceptual plan for what was called Elder Mill Park in 2007.

That plan incorporated all of the Dolvin property, the mill, and other properties in the area surrounding the mill and bridge.

Nothing has been done since that time to realize the plans.

Creation Of Foundation

Dolvin passed away in May of 2012. Her husband, James Dolvin, had died in 1980.

Burruss said Dolvin left her assets to the foundation on her death.

The first 990 IRS Tax form for a private foundation I was able to find for the Dolvin Foundation was for 2010.

Burruss and John H. Murphy Jr. of Canton are foundation trustees.

Discussions Underway

Burruss said he had met both with Davis and with incoming BOC Chair John Daniell.

Daniell confirmed to me that he has been involved in the discussions.

Burruss said he wants to explore corporate as well as government funding for the project.

“We’re in the planning stage,” he said, “and we’re trying to get the interested parties together.”

Monday, August 22, 2016

Hard Labor Creek Management Board Moves Forward With Design Work For Apalachee River Intake

In Market To Sell Water

The Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board last week agreed to spend $93,536 for design work for the intake structure on the Apalachee River across from North High Shoals that can be used in the future to expand the size of the reservoir.

The Board also reviewed plans for a water treatment plant for the reservoir that would rely on membrane filtration technology. Actual construction of the plant is thought to be at least three years away as neither county has a need for the water filling in the reservoir.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

All Three Candidates For Oconee County BOC Post 2 Agree To Participate In Election Forum

Set For Sept. 15

All three candidates for the special election on Nov. 8 to fill Post 2 on the Oconee County Board of Commissioners have agreed to participate in an election forum set for 7 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the Community Center in Veterans Park.

Oconee County School Superintendent Dr. Jason Branch also has agreed to answer questions on the district’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education question, which also will be on the ballot in November.

Expenses For Mars Hill Road Work Mislabeled In Presentation To Public On Request Of Oconee County Commission Chairman

Email Messages Show

Oconee County administrators, to accommodate Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis, intentionally mislabeled $15,000 in expenses in giving a public presentation in June of a bill for added design work for Mars Hill Road.

Moreland Altobelli Associates Inc. billed the county $10,000 for requested design work to reconnect Old Mars Hill Road to Mars Hill Road and $5,000 for design work on a median break requested by businessman Doug Dickens.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Oconee County Committee Turns Aside Bishop Farms Parkway Extension; GDOT Rejects Mars Hill Road Full Median Break

Two Setbacks

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis’ proposal for the county to spend upwards of $1.3 million to extend Bishop Farms Parkway received no support last (Tuesday) night from the Citizen Advisory Committee On Land Use and Transportation Planning.

The plan is to extend Bishop Farms Parkway from Experiment Station Road to New High Shoals Road, giving University of North Georgia students, faculty and staff another access point to the campus.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

State Department Of Natural Resources Sampled Fish In Calls Creek In Advance Of Oconee County Expansion Of Wastewater Plant

17 Species Found

A nine-person team from the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources walked 250 yards of Calls Creek last Thursday looking for fish.

Thirty species would be a good number from such a sampling, according to Patti Lanford, team leader and Stream Survey Program Manager for the Wildlife Resources Division in Social Circle.

Monday, August 15, 2016

GDOT Planning Construction Of Passing Lanes On SR 15 In Southern Oconee County, Development Authority Told

Safety Issue

Construction of passing lanes on SR 15 in both Oconee and Greene counties is on the list for conceptual planning with the Georgia Department of Transportation, Rep. Chuck Williams told members of the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority last week.

Williams said he has been working with Rep. Trey Rhodes of Greensboro on the project, made possible because of funds raised by the increase in fuel taxes and imposition of a hotel tax by the General Assembly in the 2015 session.