Monday, September 08, 2014

Georgia Department Of Transportation Project Officials Vague On Who Initiated Request For Oconee County To Approve Three Road Projects

Called Group Effort

Georgia Department of Transportation Engineer Brandon Kirby said that the decision to send three project framework agreements to Oconee County for approval was the result of a “group effort.”

But he would not say who was in the group that decided it was time to move forward with the widening and reconstruction of Jimmy Daniell Road, the widening of Daniells Bridge Road, and the construction of an extension of Daniells Bridge Road with a flyover of SR Loop 10.

Those three projects will be reviewed by the Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS) in a public hearing it will hold from 5 to 7 p.m. tomorrow night in the Community Center at Veterans Park on Hog Mountain Road.

The three projects also are likely to be discussed by the Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee for Land Use and Transportation Planning, which will follow MACORTS and hold its usual monthly meeting tomorrow evening, also in Veterans Park.

The discussions will take place without an explanation of why the county is being asked at this time by GDOT to agree on a project time line and on sources of funding.

Davis And Daniell

At the Aug. 26 Board of Commissioners meeting, Commissioner John Daniell posed just that question to Commission Chairman Melvin Davis, who brought the requests from GDOT to the Board for action.

Davis told Daniell that the answer to that question would have to come from GDOT, as the brief video clip below shows.

I posed the question to three people at GDOT last week but didn’t get a clear answer.

Two of the people said that the projects almost certainly were sent to the county after discussions with county officials.

The Letter Writer

Davis received three letters, two dated July 3 and one dated July 9, from Kim R. Coley, district planning and programming engineer in GDOT’s Gainesville office.

I talked with Coley by telephone on Thursday of last week.

Coley told me that she did not initiate but only signed the project framework agreements, which were given to her by the project manager, Dylan Curtis. She suggested I talk to Curtis.

Coley did say that the project manager typically would have given the project framework agreements to her for distribution to the local government if money had become available or after “simple discussions between the project manager and local officials that the local officials are ready to start this process.”

The New Project Manager

I talked with Curtis on Friday, who said my question about the timing of the project framework agreements was “a really good” one.

Curtis told me that she was named project manager only while Coley was preparing the project framework agreements and that she knew relatively little about them.

“I believe it is something that the locals discussed,” she said. She said he also believed that the members of the state Transportation Board were involved.

Jamie Boswell, who owns the Boswell Group, a local commercial real estate firm with listings along the three roadways, is the local representative to the state Transportation Board.

Curtis stressed that Kirby would know more than she does about the timing of the project framework agreements.

The Old Project Manager

I talked with Kirby on Friday as well.

He told me that the three projects were on the MACORTS list of future projects, but he said that the decision to move them from long range projects to ones with shorter schedules was not made by MACORTS.

Rather, he said, the Department of Transportation simply had decided it was time to take action on them.

“I’m not giving you names,” he said. “I’m not sure what your angle is. If you are trying to single out an individual person that has done something right or wrong, I’m not going to assist you with that.”

“It is a group effort,” Kirby said. “Not just one person works on that.”

BOC Passes

At that meeting on Aug. 26, the Board of Commissioners decided it didn’t want to take action on the GDOT project framework agreements until the three projects had been reviewed by the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee.

That is how the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee got the assignment it is likely to take up tomorrow night.

The MACORTS public hearing is wide-ranging, dealing with a longer list of road projects in the county and the region. The hearing is on its 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan.

The time lines and the project scopes and costs for the Jimmy Daniell Road and Daniells Bridge Road projects are different in the MACORTS documents than in the project framework agreements.


Anonymous said...

THAT, young man, is some good reporting. The stink of Melvin Davis' relationship with Jamie Boswell is starting to get putrid.

Joshua Sharp said...

Brandon Kirby just flat-out refused to name the people who made the decision? Isn't that illegal? Good reporting!

Beanne said...

Yes, great job. Mr. Boswell sure inserted himself into the right board. It is a terrible stench!