About 40 people turned out Tuesday night at the Civic Center for an hour-and-a-half-long exchange with the Oconee County Board of Commissioners in what was billed as a town hall style meeting.
The citizens asked questions of the five commissioners about a covered bridge in Northwest Woods, the possible purchase of land for preservation, the flyover from Daniells Bridge road to behind Home Depot, the widening of Daniells Bridge road, and other topics.
The answers the citizens were given were informative, though not necessarily in the way intended by the commissioners.
"The county did not fully determine who did the damage" to the bridge, Board Chairman Melvin Davis said in response to the question as to why no action was taken against those who hit the bridge. He did not elaborate.
Commissioner Jim Luke said the county didn’t have the money to restore the bridge, though he acknowledged later the county had money it is sitting on for an upgrade of Daniells Bridge road leading to a commercial development site.
The county does not have enough money to buy and protect land threatened by development, such as at Elder Bridge, Commissioner Margaret Hale told Russ Page, an advocate of farmland protection and historic preservation.
Commissioner Chuck Horton said the county is lending the state money--approximately $10 million--to purchase right of way for Mars Hill Road widening, which is supposed to relieve traffic but also is designed to open up land for commercial development.
The county lost about half a million dollars last year in interest on a similar loan of $5 million it made to the state for right of way purchase for the Oconee Connector Extension.
In December of 2008, the BOC approved a rezone for a business park just east of the blind curve on Daniells Bridge road and promised complaining citizens it would widen the road to the site to help address safety concerns.
Public Works Director Emil Beshara told the Board the work would be completed by the end of this past summer.
Since no construction has been done, one member of the audience asked for an update. (I was not that person.)
Chairman Davis said work was on schedule to widen the road from Founder’s Grove to the Oconee Connector Extension–about half the distance promised at the rezone hearing–and was on schedule to be completed by late winter or next spring.
Commissioner Jim Luke said he also believed the work was proceeding as scheduled and noted that $400,000 was set aside for the project.
Another citizen asked for an update on the status of the proposed flyover of SR Loop 10 from Daniells Bridge road.
Davis told her the project is only in the concept stage and "in what is known as the long range plan 2025-2035."
The flyover is one of only three projects in Oconee County in the state and federal Transportation Improvement Program and is slotted for $50,000 in preliminary engineering in fiscal year 2015. Construction is programmed for fiscal year 2017.
Davis was one of two representatives of the county to the Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study, which put the project on the TIP at its meeting on Sept. 9. According to Sherry Moore, a transportation planner with Athens-Clarke County and a designated contact person with MACORTS, Davis attended that meeting.
Another item on that TIP list is the widening of Simonton Bridge road from the Clarke County line to Watkinsville.
No one asked about that at the meeting.
The full video from the meeting is on my Vimeo site.