Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bishop Bypass No Longer Being Considered, Georgia Department Of Transportation Officials Said At Oconee County Citizen Meeting

Existing Alignment Followed

The Georgia Department of Transportation is proposing that U.S. 441 be widened to three lanes through the center of Bishop rather than build a bypass of the small Oconee County city.

GDOT also is proposing that the highway be widened to four lanes from Bishop north to Watkinsville and from Bishop south to Madison following the alignment of the existing roadway.

GDOT released the proposed route tonight (Tuesday) at the first meeting of the Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee, where it met with strong opposition from Bishop Mayor Johnny Pritchett and Farmington resident Buddy Murrow, both members of the Citizen Advisory Committee.

Pritchett and Murrow said they want a bypass of Bishop, but Bruce Anderson, GDOT project manager, said no plans for a bypass are being considered at this time.

Roundabouts

To slow traffic moving through Bishop, consultants to GDOT are proposing two roundabouts, one on each end of the city.

Committee Reviewing Maps
The plans also include a pedestrian crossing with a traffic light that is push-button activated. In response to the pedestrian request, a light will turn red, halting traffic.

The plans call for streetscaping to make the roadway pedestrian friendly, for landscaping and for pedestrian lighting.

The three lanes would stay within the existing right of way in the city and would accommodate traffic moving at its present rate of 45 miles per hour.

“If we stay in downtown Bishop, that takes away all of the issues that we heard about,” said Kerrie Boyette, GDOT consultant with KCI Technologies Inc., a Maryland firm with offices in Duluth.

By not building the bypass, GDOT would minimize environmental impact, not disturb archeological sites, not damage streams, and not have negative impact on farms, Boyette said.

Immediate Objections

Pritchett hardly let Boyette finish.

“To talk about what you’re talking about, three lanes, is ridiculous,” he said. “It will not work.”

“And I second that,” said Murrow.

When Boyette rolled out the plans, Pritchett became even more animated. “This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. I hate to tell you that, but I’m going to tell you. It needs to be bypassed.”

At one point, he stood up to leave, but he ended up staying until the end of the 90-minute session.

He said he would go over the heads of the GDOT officials, contacting his representatives and calling the governor.

Existing Route

The improvements of U.S. 441 are to run from the end of the existing bypass of Watkinsville on the north to the end of the existing Madison bypass in Morgan County on the south.

The plans are to follow the existing alignment and use the existing two lanes.

The new lanes will be built on either side of the existing roadway as appropriate.

To minimize the impact of the roadway, a 24 inch concrete median will be used in place of a 44 inch grass median.

The design is for a 55-miles-per-hour speed, the current speed limit on the roadway.

Other Voices

Pritchett and Murrow were so dominant at the meeting that it was hard for others to speak, particularly if they wanted to express a different point of view.

Lisa Douglas, who was one of the founders of Positively Oconee, a citizen group working to preserve green space, particularly in the south of the county, finally spoke up about an hour into the meeting.

“We are gaining a lot in the county by this route,” she said. “We’re gaining a lot for farmland, for our southern agricultural heritage.”

“I hope this works,” Douglas said. “I hope it makes Bishop a good place for everyone.

“There are a lot of people that will be happy about this idea, about this alignment, all throughout the county,” she added.

Timetable

Claudia Bilotto from consultant WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, an international engineering services firm with offices in Atlanta, said she expected the next public meeting on the GDOT plans will be in two or three months.

She said one possibility is another meeting with the Citizens Advisory Committee, followed by a meeting with the general public.

At a meeting last June, GDOT and its consultants said plans for the roadway should be completed in the spring of 2018, with right of way acquisition to begin in the summer of that year.

The project is scheduled to be let for construction in the spring of 2021, the officials said at that time.

Meeting And Video

The meeting took place from 5 p.m. to just short of 6:30 p.m. in the Community Center in Veterans Park.

It began with introductions of the Citizen Advisory Committee members and a handful of others present.

The agenda for the meeting was quite general, and it wasn’t clear that the Committee was going to see actual plans until Boyette began to speak.

Boyette focused immediately on Bishop, since most of the controversy regarding the route in the past has centered around possible bypass routes.

Boyette started her discussion of the plans at 8:18 in the video of the entire session, which is below.

The conversation degenerated into a series of small discussions and then was brought back to order.

Douglas made her comments just after 1:01:10 in the video.

OCO: US 441 CAC 3 18 17 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Oconee County Animal Services Advisory Board Once Again Attracts Large Number Of Applicants

Two Stepping Down

Six people have applied for three open positions on the Oconee County Animal Services Advisory Board and will have a chance tomorrow (Tuesday) night to make their case for appointment.

The Board of Commissioners will consider appointments to the Animal Services Board as well as to three other citizen bodies, the Family and Children Services Board, the Keep Oconee County Beautiful Commission, and the Oconee County Library Board.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Oconee County Issued Two Occupancy Permits For Falls Of Oconee Commercial Complex

Gourmet Food Store Opening

The Oconee County Code Enforcement Office on Friday issued occupancy permits for two tenants of The Falls of Oconee commercial complex on Old Macon Highway at McNutt Creek.

The permits were for The Olive Basket, a gourmet food store, and PT Solutions, a physical therapy facility.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

GDOT Holding Meeting On Tuesday With Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee For U.S. 441 Widening And Bishop Bypass

CAC Only Invited

The Georgia Department of Transportation is holding its first meeting with the Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee for the U.S. 441 Improvements in Oconee and Morgan counties from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Community Center at Veterans Park on Hog Mountain Road.

Bruce Anderson, GDOT project manager, sent the invitation to 10 members of the Citizens Advisory Committee via an email on March 3 and attached a formal invitation from Albert V. Shelby III, program delivery administrator in the GDOT Office of Program Delivery.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Oconee County Parks And Recreation Department Beginning External Review Of Operation

Bark Park Fundraiser

The Oconee County Department of Parks and Recreation is moving forward with plans for an external review of operation of the Department, Lisa Davol, deputy director, told the Citizens Advisory Committee on Recreation Affairs on Tuesday.

Davol told the Committee that the Board of Commissioners had requested the review of the facilities, facility usage and staff operation and that the Department is getting costs estimates at present. She said the Department should have a report back about 90 days after a contract is let.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Watkinsville Voters Approve Sunday Sales By Big Margins

Low Turnout

Watkinsville voters overwhelmingly approved the Sunday sales of alcoholic drinks in the city’s restaurants and the Sunday sales of beer and wine in the city’s convenience stores in voting in the special election that ended today (Tuesday).

Vote turnout was low, but the margins in favor of Sunday sales in the city were even higher than they were when county voters approved Sunday sales last November.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Oconee County Republican Party Has New Slate Of Officers Following Saturday Convention

52 Attended

Oconee County’s Republican Party got a whole new slate of officers in elections held yesterday (Saturday) at the Thomas Cotton Gin on SR15 south of Watkinsville.

Tammy Gilland was elected chair, Ed Perkins was elected first vice chair, Marcus Wiedower was elected second vice chair, and Brooks Fletcher was elected third vice chair.